Friday, December 31, 2010

Forty Favorite Pop Songs of 2010: #30-#26

30. “XXXO (Remix)” M.I.A. Feat. Jay-Z (/\/\/\Y/\)

M.I.A. is an artist I could easily find obnoxious, but there's a combination of artistic interest and a sense of her overall harmlessness that has thus far allowed me to look past the confrontational public image, fetish for controversy, and Lady Gaga-bashing (admittedly, the last has since ceased to bother me) on occasions when something of hers crosses my musical path. There may have additionally been an element of serendipitous timing in the case of "XXXO," the first official single from the Sri Lankan/British alternative dance/progressive electropop artiste-agitator's third studio album /\/\/\Y/\ but one that arrived in the considerably muddy wake of a notoriously graphic, genocide-themed short film built around another track from the album, "Born Free," that was both hailed and lambasted by critics and consumers and subject of a messy argument over content restrictions. "XXXO" is probably the most accessible track on the wildly, at times overbearingly experimental album, and one of the few that revisit the unique dichotomous sexuality, at once exotically naive and aggressively explicit, of much of her two previous albums (not to mention the sizzling Bangladesh-produced "Hit That," which surfaced in the months leading up to the release of sophomore set Kala but never landed on an album). A moderate hit in the UK, the official remix replaces the weak third verse that somewhat deflates the original cut with an energetic if not entirely relevant rap by Jay-Z in one of the few instances I find a remixed edit to be an improvement on the original. M.I.A. directed the oddly engrossing video (watch below), in which the surprisingly sexified singer deadpans to the camera while imitating the body language of internet seduction amid graphics suggestive of the visual staples of Arabic and American social and dating websites, echoing the theme of the album artwork. It's almost eerie the way M.I.A. continues to toe the line with such unsettling ambiguity that you're never entirely sure she's truly being ironic.

29 “Crazy Possessive” Kaci Battaglia (Bring It On)

Shortly before Christina Aguilera's Bionic landed, I made what would be one of the last forays onto Limewire - which I admit to having used consistently for most of my music acquisitions for years until a full-time salary allowed for the acquisition of ethical responsibility in the matter - to see what there was to find (I'm not usually into leaks, out of artistic respect much more than financial, and I almost never actively seek them out, so I don't know what came over me). Among my several discoveries was one track purporting to be the song "Glam," a song title that surfaced months earlier as being on the album. When I first listened through it I nearly died laughing, and though it was clear pretty quickly that the singer was not, in fact, Xtina, once you take a listen to what I found out MUCH later was actually called "Crazy Possessive," one of the most ridiculous Britney-borrowing guilty pleasures to appear recently, you'll probably get a solid idea why. The song is my favorite trashy, feel-like-a-badass anthem since Willa Ford, with that instantly classic chorus of "call my man again and I'ma fuck you up" that I much appreciate. The track's actual artist is the new dance-pop singer Kaci Battaglia, who, it turns out, has the misfortune of being both excruciatingly hot and slightly clever, but either unaware of this fact or justwhat to do with it. A cunning producer could turn such ingredients into a smash hit in his sleep; no such leadership, however, is in evidence anywhere on the singer's long-delayed 2010 album Bring It On. The song's music video (watch it below), pleasurable to witness as it may be, is representative of the problems that mar the bulk of the project. here's an intriguing concept at the very base, the doppelganger motif apt for the outwardly confrontational and confidently defensive lyrics that are in fact riddled with the uncertainty and insecurity that tend to accompany mad jealousy. But nothing really comes of it; we just get Battaglia lip synching and looking like she'd been instructed to look perturbed, while in the meantime her body gyrates and poses sexily modeling various bikini swimsuits. Perhaps that's just the default range of motion instinctive in women that attractive, or the creative decision of an amateur team, but it just looks as though some artistically inclined director came up with a great concept, got the location and the performers, then unexpectedly took off before the rehearsal, so they just decided to wing it. This tune actually landed last year and climbed to the peak of the Billboard Dance Club Play chart (as did the dull as nails "Body Shots" which suffers from production so egregiously poor even a guest spot by Ludacris can't save it) but in spite of that and the aforementioned failings, I'm still putting it on this list, because it's just that awesome.

28. “Misery” Maroon 5 (Hands All Over)
For one of the best-looking frontmen in the current pop music scene, Adam Levine sure has issues with women. To introduce their third studio album Hands All Over, the always entertaining pop-rock quintet sent out a lead single every bit as deceptively love-bruised as their biggest hits, “This Love,” “Makes Me Wonder,” and “If I Never See Your Face Again.” And sure, it breaks approximately no ground in terms of musical progression from “This Love,” the infectious single succeeds because Maroon 5's signature blend of love-gone-wrong themes, upbeat tune, clever (but not distracting) lyrics, and Levine's silky, impeccable tenor vocal is, as it always has been, a tried-and-true winner. The video is a strange blend of cartoon violence and innocent sincerity, with Levine's aesthetically gifted on-screen femme fatale proceeds to pitilessly maim, bludgeon and torture our hero (and a few unfortunate passersby) repeatedly over a dozen or so different scenes, while the singer plays his best pitiable martyr, singing with unshaken earnestness throughout regardless of his present situation, most of which aren't terribly comfortable-looking. It's as good an uptempo single as the group has done, which may not make it especially great but puts it in strong company and no one really seems to be complaining. After all, if it ain't broke...

27 “Bad Gal” Savage Skulls & Douster feat. Robyn (Get Rich or High Tryin'Body Talk Pt. 2)

Perhaps there was a time when it might have seemed odd to see Robyn's name attached to a track from a genre not generally associated with Swedish pop singers, but it has long since passed. The brilliant and versatile blonde (not her natural color, I recently learned...who knew?) has bestowed her services as a guest vocalist to acts ranging from Los Angeles rapper Snoop Dogg to Norwegian electronica duo Röyksopp to indie rocker I Blame Coco, and had already proven she could belong in the R&B, hip-hop, funky soul, and even tropical Dancehall genres if she damn well chose. After cementing her claim to that last in the charmingly cocky Diplo-produced single "Dancehall Queen" on Body Talk Pt. 1 earlier this year, her appearance (which appeared as an iTunes bonus track with Body Talk Pt. 2) on "Bad Gal," a collaboration between tropical house duo Savage Skulls (who co-produced the Body Talk Pt. 2 track "Love Kills") and upcoming young French dancehall/reggae producer Hugo Douster, barely gave cause to bat an eye. It's a simple, fast-paced yet leisurely dance track, with Robyn in full "Konichiwa Bitches" swagger singing boasts like "I wish someone could cool me, 'cause I'm hot and you're not" over an immaculate set of light-hearted tropical beats, major thirds bouncing upwards for a few bars before cascading downward in a minor five-note arpeggio (the first of which, at about 1:05 in, literally made me squeal with delight the first time I played it through, and still pleases me in ways one wouldn't share with children) that repeats a different way each time it comes around in the four minute track, a prime example of the intricacy and playfulness of the three producers' tooling that despite its variety never overwhelms the senses or comes off as inconsistent. If this is Robyn being a bad gal, we don't need her to be good. 

26 “Barbra StreisandDuck Sauce (Single)

I know, it's very strange to see the name Barbra Streisand at the top of the Billboard Dance Club Play chart in late 2010 - or at all, really. The legendary diva has made but one appearance on the chart, when "Night of My Life," from her 2005 album Guilty Pleasures, nearly conquered the chart but stalled out at number two...and I bet she HATED that. But perhaps Babs can find some validation in last week's chart, at the top of which, at long last, sat "Barbra Streisand." Sure, she had nothing to do with the addictive, critically lauded disco house hit by the DJ duo Duck Sauce, the reputable American DJs Armand Van Helden and A-Trak, although amongst the swirling, Boney M-sampling, guitar and synth-heavy disco joy the only two words on the track, repeated throughout as a sort of divinely succinct chorus over silence as if in hushed awe, are "Barbra Streisand." It's an intoxicating hit musically, but I also think it makes a rather genius statement; does a song named for the famously self-important scenery chomping multi-award winning icon really need to say anything more than the name, letting its supposedly overwhelming impressiveness suffice as its meaning? It's a love letter to someone who loves nothing more than being loved, and yet the rest of us can't help but love it too, no matter how thoroughly we've been trained to despise the woman by a hipster parent or flamboyant diva of a cinema professor (or whatever...). Incidentally, guess who's getting the lifetime achievement award at this year's Grammy Awards? *Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh*...Barbra Streisand.

Vertigo Shtick's Forty Favorite Pop Songs of 2010: #35-31

Monday, December 27, 2010

Forty Favorite Pop Songs of 2010: #35 - 31

35. “Oh No!” Marina and the Diamonds (The Family Jewels)

As my first introduction to British new wave up-and-comer Marina and the Diamonds (it's just Marina – the titular group of gems refers not to a backup band but to you, me and all of us...sort of like Lady Gaga and the Little Monsters) was the satirical “I Am Not a Robot,” I assumed the act belonged on the lengthy list of Ke$ha-hating indie Auto-tune detractors in whom I am less than enormously interested. Foolish me: when I stumbled upon another track from the artist's debut LP The Family Jewels, the amusing, self-consciously digital age angsty “Oh No!” I was pleasantly surprised to find the sound fitting nicely alongside the best studio/live instrument productions of the current pop output. Like similarly pop-friendly guitar-based bands of the day. Marina and the Diamonds augments accessible musical style with smart yet relatively unpretentious lyricism (she even underscores the irony of “I Am Not a Robot” in the chorus: “I know exactly why I walk and talk like a machine;/ I'm now becoming my own self-fulfilled prophecy! Oh, oh no!”), and the characteristic mixture is aptly represented (with a healthy dose of an insistent piano descant) on this short but sweet track.

34. “4th of July (Fireworks)” Kelis (Flesh Tone)

At a time when female pop stars peddled their sexuality through hints, teases and suggestion (many of them being some years shy of the age of consent at the time), Kelis was someone I always appreciated for being the bad girl on the margins, reveling in explicit sexuality the way not seen since Madonna, Janet Jackson and Salt n Pepa back in the nasty early nineties. Not since Pamela and Tommy Lee was there a more publicly sexual couple than Kelis and Nas, who wed in 2005 and collaborated on some deliciously dirty tracks on her 2006 album Kelis Was Here. But the pair's nastiest act was their messy 2009 divorce, shortly after which Kelis gave birth to a son and was dropped from her label and seemed doomed to sink into has-been obscurity. Instead, the "bitch y'all love to hate" set up a studio in her garage, called up Black Eyed Peas producer, and in July released her fourth studio album Flesh Tone, a pulsating, joyous dance album. It was one of the more unexpected but fascinating transformations of recent memory, not entirely unlike that of The Peas. Kelis was never a particularly good singer, but just as her smoky alto was perfect for sexy hip-hop thumpers, her raspy, sometimes off-key upper register somehow manages to fit just as seamlessly into the saturated productions of electronic/dance pros like DJ Ammo and David Guetta. The imperfections provide the emotional edge to a collection of cleverly written songs that in context constitute a jovial celebration of motherhood but with such versatility as to be individually applicable to any number of relationships of any degree of propriety. "4th of July (Fireworks)," with its pulsating synth and pounding bass and Kelis' swirling vocal perfectly mixed so as to blend in with the electronic sounds without disappearing beneath them or sitting over-loudly on top (as is the case at times with the album's bigger, Guetta-produced lead single "Acappella"), is easily my favorite of the album's tunes. It was a particular delight to get to hear her perform it live this summer on the All Hearts Tour, her US club tour with Robyn.

33. “It's My Party” Amy Winehouse (Q-Soul Bossa Nostra)

They tried to make her go to rehab, and you know how that went over. But the bluesy British prodigy who insisted back in 2007 that she simply didn't have 70 days to spare for institutionalization sure hasn't been using her time in the studio preparing a follow-up to her brilliant, award-sweeping neo-soul album Back to Black, much to the chagrin of her many loyalists. Even her equally deft producer Mark Ronson has publicly sniffed about her lack of togetherness in that arena, delivering a buzz-killing rebuttal to Winehouse's promise of an early 2011 release date, and the two even exchanged some nasty tweets before Winehouse (hopefully) apologized for an outburst one might reasonably assume may not have been entirely sober. But if there was anyone with the power to deliver some new Winehouse to ease the shuddering withdrawl of music lovers, it would be legendary producer Quincy Jones – the man who brought us Michael Jackson, among many others. Stars of the highest caliber offered their services for a recent tribute compilation of Jones' countless hits of the past fifty-plus years, and wouldn't you know who was on that list? Winehouse was reportedly planning to croon “ “ for the record before changing to Lesley Gore's chaste poodle-skirt sobfest “It's My Party,” with Ronson at the helm. The results are, as one critic put it, “interesting” to say the least; for at least the first verse one might swear Winehouse was as plastered as Richard Burton between takes; but as she works her way through two more verses and one gut-clenchingly hilarious spoken bridge, it's clear that the girl still knows what it means to kill a vocal...and can that woman SING! It's uproarious, controversial, messy, and addictive, and far from sating thirst it only makes the return of Amy Winehouse that much more a desperate necessity.

32. “Bobblehead” Christina Aguilera (Bionic)

I'm not even going to get into the infamous mess of frustration, thrill, waste, brilliance, idiocy and/or folly that is Christina Aguilera's Bionic (I have already, at length...and probably will do further at some point), other than to select but one of the many missteps involved, that being song selection. Aguilera's previous two albums were both overlong epics of which Cecil B. DeMille would likely approve, and Bionic is no different; similarly, like its predecessors, Bionic contains (more than) its share of duds mixed with (and diluting) its bullseyes. But in fairness, the historical model of the pop LP has always comprised of semi-equal parts hits, intriguing non-hits, and pointless, sub-standard filler, and in the days before bonus tracks and internet leaks there was really no reason to complain that those of the third category were unjustly occupying space that might have been filled by better tracks recorded but left off the final track listing, because no one really knew if such outtakes existed, or at least had any notion of their relative quality. Now, though, we get access to a great deal more per album recording session, a perk that has proven interesting at best and ignored at worst, but with bonus tracks and leaks comes the means for public scrutiny of this previously behind-the-curtain element of the album-making process. This could be a good thing: every “Rock Me In” and “Amnesia” and “Phonography” gives the public less and less reason to tolerate “Mmm Papi,” which in such a competitive industry leads one to hope the marketing geniuses that run the Britney Spears machine will prove wise with a more consistent track list for the next project. But rarely has there been such a glaring disparity in terms of quality between official and bonus tracks as with Bionic, an error far more glaring by the multitude of other flubs on the project, but sorely obvious regardless. The four bonus tracks included in the “Deluxe” version of the album are individually among the strongest of the entire, overcrowded bunch: the solid, emotive ballad “Stronger Than Ever” wipes the floor with at least two of the four that made the varsity squad; the delicious Ladytron production “Birds of Prey” stands comfortably alongside the greatest of Aguilera's career repertoire; and the two additional John Hill & Switch productions, “Monday Morning” and “Bobblehead,” remind the shellshocked listener of the duo's two early tracks on the main set list and how much better they and their two bonus offerings are than nearly everything else. I particularly enjoy “Bobblehead” because as an exercise in electronic production it is nothing short of fascinating, not to mention rather hilarious...only this time, unlike with several less-intentionally comical tunes on the A-list, Christina seems in on the joke rather than the oblivious butt of it. For that I'll ignore the disastrous attempt at rhyming with the word “bananas.”

31. “Love" Chuck Brown feat. Jill Scott (We Got This)

The Grammy Awards are rivaled perhaps only by the Golden Globes in terms of utter ludicrousness (although their official status, as opposed to the straightforwardly tangential purpose of the Hollywood Foreign Press kudosfest, pretty much knocks them over the edge), but every so often the Academy does manage, intentional or no, to do something right...or at least right a wrong. Case in point: a cruelly overdue nomination for the "Godfather of Go-Go," Chuck Brown, over thirty years after his best-known single "Bustin' Loose" helped solidify his place in the annals of funk music. The nominated tune, fortuitously, is a duet with R&B star and Grammy favorite Jill Scott, succinctly titled "Love," and it's not much more complicated than its title. Still, if you're going to produce a run-of-the-mill crowd-pleaser, might as well do it right, and Brown and Scott deliver a lively, aww-shucks midtempo jam that's as good as a low-aiming track could be, and while it's no more a superlative of the year gone by or distinctly award-caliber record than Murder on the Orient Express or Gangs of New York were career epochs for Ingrid Bergman or Martin Scorcese, I wouldn't make a fuss if the pair carried home the golden gramophone in February.

Album Review: Kimberly Cole - "Bad Girls Club"

The debut album inhabits a category all of its own, a unique art form that spans the numerous and disparate genres of popular recorded music.beginning in August the girlfight-themed dance track was featured throughout the fifth season of The Bad Girls Club, the Oxygen Network reality show based around a gaggle of women whose behavior the Brits term "anti-social." That collaboration was successful enough for Oxygen to take on former MTV host and roller derby star Kimberly Cole for her first full-length project that will double as the official soundtrack for the show's upcoming sixth season.

Artists to Listen For in 2011: Kelly Rowland

If there's a career path more unfairly rotten than that of the second string former child of destiny Kelly Rowland. Aside from a number one duet with Nelly and a moderate if juvenile hit ballad, Rowland has been unjustly absent from the airwaves and singles charts since launching her solo career. Her most recent album Ms Kelly was a mess, the best track to come out of it being a remixed version of what originally was dreadful. Now Rowland has a new team, and over half a dozen leaked tracks surface this year in advance of an as yet titled album that has been pushed back numerous times after a pair of official singles stalled despite their considerable merits.

One possible problem involves a dichotomy in style: Rowland's two official singles were both fine R&B tracks, but she also appeared on two of the best singles from the multitude of David Guetta's 2010 releases. The unexpected genre jump was so intriguing it's hard not to wish to see what a full album of it would be like, but the rest of her leaked tracks haven't indicated any decisive genre choice, although all of them far outshine her previous work.

Hopefully some decision can be reached so that Rowland's long-delayed release can finally see the light of day, because everything I've heard this year has been as good as any female R&B out this year, and often better. "Grown Woman," my favorite of the year's offerings and one of the officially released singles, displays vocal agility, personality and overall quality every bit as solid as Rowland's more famous cousin Beyoncé, and a full LP of similar tracks would be a welcome release.

Still, despite the Guetta-produced dance tracks' relative roughness (most of which can easily be chalked up to Rowland's newcomer status to the style/genre, e.g. pitchiness, need to stay within the singer's comfortable - and considerable - vocal range), a whole album of THAT could truly be something groundbreaking and even great.

Whatever comes from Rowland in 2011, I sincerely hope it comes in the form of an LP. This enormously talented artist more than deserves her rightful day in the sun.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

David Guetta feat. Rihanna - "Who's That Chick?" (Music Video Review)

Amidst Hot 100 chart-topping success with the first two singles off the recent release Loud, “Only Girl (In The World)” and “What’s My Name?” the newly crimson-haired Rihanna has managed to collaborate with David Guetta and a Doritos ad campaign for another dance jam currently rising up the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart (it's currently at number 28), somewhat anti-feministically entitled "Who's That Chick?" The track is featured on Guetta’s One More Love, as one the new tracks on the recent re-release of the French DJ's One Love (which featured such gems as “When Love Takes Over” featuring Kelly Rowland, "Sexy Bitch" featuring Akon, the title track with Estelle, etc.). 

Good girl...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Alanis Morissette Lyric Day - Listen to "Jagged Little Pill Acoustic"

Every so often my iPod kicks a little unexpected awesome my way (it's not especially easy, since my iPhone has space for less than half of my music library, so I generally know what I've selected to load onto it), and last night it was on a particular roll. One of the delightful blasts from the past was Alanis Morissette's ever-quotable "All I Really Want," the opening track on her blockbuster breakthrough album Jagged Little Pill, an album to which just about everyone who was alive and musically conscious when the album landed in 1995 knows at least a handful of lyrics (if not every word...*cough*). Case in point: a Facebook status update I posted upon hearing the tune ("Why are you so petrified of silence? Here: can you handle this..." One of my all-time favorite Morissettisms) inspired several continuation replies from high school friends I'd not heard from in a good while. More updates and replies and reunions followed until I decided that, if there ever were to be a day dedicated to the nostalgic recitation of some of the famous words caterwauled our way fifteen years ago by a nineteen-year-old former Canadian dance music singer (or the many more that have followed since across five studio albums), there seemed to be no reason for it not to be December 17, 2010.

Back cover of Jagged Little Pill Acoustic (2005)

And so, Vertigo Shtick hereby encourages the Gen X/Gen Y-ers out there to stick your feet in your mouth and/or walk around naked in your living rooms, and share one of your favorite Alanis lyrics with us and the rest of the world on what is a grim and gloomy day in Los Angeles, on which we hope no one has planned a wedding day - wouldn't that be "ironic?"*

on our Facebook page
Twitter (tag @vertigo_shtick too!)

 For inspiration, listen below to Jagged Little Pill Acoustic, recorded in 2005 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the initial release of Jagged Little Pill; on the new record, Morissette performs new, (relatively) acoustic, and accordingly mellowed renditions of all thirteen tracks from the original release, with original producer  - with some surprising and some downright transcendent results. It's a fascinating before-and-after piece that differs from the teenage angst of the original to the extent the then 29-year-old Alanis, at the time engaged to Hollywood hunk Ryan Reynolds (the pair called off their engagement in 2007), differed from the precocious, angry/bruised teenager on the first record. If someone had told me that I might one day play Jagged Little Pill to soothe my senses to sleep I'd have laughed aloud, but if you haven't had the pleasure, give it a go. After all, it's Alanis Lyric Day!

Swallow it down. It feels so good.

If you like what you hear, pick up part or all of Jagged Little Pill Acoustic on iTunes or Amazon, so we aren't such thugs for streaming it here for you for free.

* ironic (adj.): in the song by Alanis Morissette, used to describe an unfortunate circumstance, particularly one with seeming cruelty of chance; not to be confused with an actual definition of the word.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Forty Favorite Pop Songs of 2010: #40 - 36

One year ago today, I embarked upon a journey into the world of music journalism with an open mind, an eagerness to learn, and a vague but important purpose in mind: to bring to the loosely defined genre and industry of "pop music" the type of thoughtful and intelligent commentary, criticism and analysis previously all but exclusive to the exclusive, elitist, snooty, and even more loosely defined realm of "indie," "rock," or otherwise non-pop music and almost pointedly denied to most mainstream-leaning music, as if the art form itself was so inferior as not to merit such consideration to begin with. It's been a fun ride thus far, at times requiring more training wheel assistance than I might have liked while still cultivating the occasional burst of inspired critical joyrides (of which I am thoroughly proud, perhaps to a greater extent than would be polite to publicize), and the immense amount of education I've received that I had no idea might be out there to receive is what excites me most leading into the second year of Vertigo Shtick's young existence. It's a convenient anniversary to have, coinciding as it does with the orgy of year-end roundup posts, lists, and summations of which it seems my peers in the music journalism realm simply cannot get enough.

Remember this? Vertigo Shtick's very first header.
While I take pride in Vertigo Shtick's continued commitment to the kind of in-depth, musically and artistically interesting coverage the brilliant writers at Pitchfork, one of my main inspirations, bestow upon all kinds of music excepting anything marginally more popularly appreciated than Robyn, or that the brilliant satirists/critics at PopJustice, the best pop music writing currently being produced (but with a UK-centric focus), have made and defended that title, let it not be said that I am immune to the self-important thrill of declaring and delineating those songs/albums/artists/events, etc. that Vertigo Shtick deems the greatest of them all. Of course, since I shan't yet go so far as to expect anyone to accept these lists as any more informed or reliable than those of one's senile Grandpa Joe or eleven-year-old Justin Bieber fanatic, I'll be sure to provide as much explanation and/or defense as possible to better inform and edify the curious reader. Here, therefore, is the first segment of a list I'll call Vertigo Shtick's Forty Favorite Pop Songs of 2010. If I might draw your attention to the word "favorite" and point out the difference in definition from that of "Best" once more before you proceed, perhaps some eyebrow muscles will be saved the effort required to extend vertically in dubiousness.

Vertigo Shtick's Forty Favorite Songs of 2010
#40 - 36

40. “None of Dem” Robyn feat. Röyksopp (Body Talk Pt. 1/Body Talk)

When former '90s teen pop princess-turned-critically adored rebel/pop genius Robyn announced, early this year, that she was to return after nearly half a decade promoting her masterpiece self-titled album - and not just return, but return with THREE albums before year's end - I doubt even her most ardent admirers (one among whom I count myself) were at all prepared for the deliriously fantastic barrage of near-perfect electronic dance-pop the Swedish icon would eventually pile upon us. Upon the June 15 release of by-then mostly leaked Body Talk Pt. 1, though, it was clear that Robyn had every intention of superceding even the high standard and expectations she'd set for herself, with a sprawling set of eight rather different tracks whose main commonalities were experimentation and excellence. "None of Dem," her collaboration with Norwegian electronica duo Röyksopp (for whose 2009 single "The Girl and the Robot" Robyn provided the mesmerizing vocal), is a haunting rebuff to a dreary, stagnant town from a worldly rebel meant for much more, echoing the album-wide theme of the outsider that also frames "Cry When You Get Older," "Dancehall Queen" and "Dancing On My Own." I should admit to taking rather a long while to appreciate this track, finally coming to my senses after seeing her perform the song at the second of two U.S. club tours this year (both of which I attended). It may also have been that I never bothered to listen to the track in full, thereby missing the full minute and a half Röyksopp draws out a chilling, minor arpeggio-laden climax, as if the rebel behind the lyrics were defiantly riding the road out of town, but heading toward a sunset that portends the potential of something even more sinister. SO European.

39. “Can't Be Tamed” Miley Cyrus (Can't Be Tamed)

Enter this one under "semi-guilty pleasures" (it's the first of several). This summer, the Artist Then-Soon to Be Formerly Known as Hannah Montana embarked upon her next step towards shedding the character and accompanying varnish that comes with being a bonafide Disney child star. Such a feat demands walking in the heavy footsteps of former Mouse House kids who made it big in the real world like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Zac Efron and Lindsay Lohan (ideally not the exact footsteps of Lindsay Lohan, but time will tell), but Cyrus is clearly jam-packed with the right stuff - including the wisdom to learn from one's elders, hence her liberal borrowing from the careers of Ms. Spears and Ms. Aguilera and coming out as a rebelliously-sexualized not-quite-18 year old, complete with midriff-baring album cover and a music video simply engineered to keep prudish stay-at-home moms with YouTube accounts and a penchant for judgment and posting comments plenty occupied (it also features a pair of killer CGI wings and an allover well-executed dance routine taking place inside a sinister-looking Museum of Natural History, of all places). It's a shame that some lazy producer felt it appropriate to dress up Cyrus' demonstrably solid voice with the by-then increasingly disparaged Auto-Tune in the style of the moment...about six months earlier, but it's a minor quibble, so convincing and urgent is Cyrus' vocal on the coming-out single. Neither the single and accompanying album were terribly successful, but I sense Can't Be Tamed may likely be merely a bridge from Cyrus' first non-Hannah Montana set Meet Miley Cyrus and an as-yet unannounced major release album cementing the singer's post-Disney persona without the need for further explanation.

Tremble before my bitchin' CGI-enhanced visual metaphor.

38. “Whip My Hair” Willow  (Whip My Hair - Single)

I have to hand it to whoever greenlit a garishly overproduced pop/hip-hop jam about flaying one's locks in both directions as a means of flipping one's detractors the bird, sung by nine-year-old girl with movie star parents (and older brother), because not only does he or she possess some serious gonads, Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair" has turned out to be a rollicking, uplifting smash hit that has gleeful listeners of every age, race and level of elitism headbanging in a manner not seen since the death of Kurt Cobain. Smith (daughter to Will and Jada Pinkett) delivers a vocal that's necessarily endearing but also impressively confident and sassy in precisely the right manner to sell the moderately trite personal empowerment message. It's a performance that somehow manages to be both thoroughly age-appropriate (not here, praise the pop music gods, any uncomfortably/unbelievably disingenuous sexuality or romantic sentiment) and skilled beyond the young singer's paltry years, which bodes well for her planned debut album set to arrive early next year.

37. “Wouldnit (I'm a Star)” Ono (Dave Aude Club Dub)

Yoko Ono, the Japanese avant-garde musician, controversial widow of the late John Lennon and accused catalyst/scapegoat for the breakup of The Beatles, is now 77 years old, but that didn't keep her from hitting the top spot on the Billboard Dance Club Play chart earlier this year. Admittedly, that particular chart sees more than its share of quirky absurdities, but when Yoko Ono appears in the number one slot on any Billboard chart 42 years after "Revolution 9," even a relatively casual dance music consumer like me might be moved to shell out a dollar for the iTunes download. The Dave Aude club mix of Ono's 1995 track "Wouldnit," off her 1995 album Rising, is but the latest in a nearly decade-long collaboration between Ono and a lengthy list of electronic and dance producers and djs, creating club-ready dance remixes of an eclectic selection of the eccentric musician's hefty repertoire, and the seventh to hit number one on the Dance Club Play chart since 2000. At just over six minutes, the track is succinct enough to hold the interest of traditional pop-leaning folks like me for whom the repetitive, cut-and-paste stylistic norms of the remix genre quickly grow tiresome, but still packs enough bonafide techno-dance punch to please the hardcore aficionados.

36. “Evacuate the Dancefloor” Cascada (Evacuate the Dancefloor)

I was never much into German dance group Cascada's 2005 hit "Everytime We Touch," and for some time while my only exposure to their newest chart-stormer "Evacuate the Dancefloor" came via the occasional chance encounter mid-song from a radio or store loudspeaker system I was unswayed in my lack of interest. It was only when I made a point, for some fleeting and long-since forgotten reason, to give the track a listen from start to finish, that I found something intriguing about the song's uniquely brazen approach to the melody of the two initial verses, particularly the dazzlingly complicated half-step chord progression on the trio of couplets "steal the night/ kill the lights," "time is right/ keep it tight" and "wrap it up/ can't stop" that precede the chorus, which, after such an unexpected and unusual exercise in melodic sophistication (and vocalist Natalie Horler's impressive command of the cruelly difficult harmonies therein) comes, to me at least, as something of a letdown. Though I rarely play the full length of the track (as is my tendency with the Ting Tings' similarly formulated "That's Not My Name," which loses me when Katie White's sassiness gives way to a repetitive, anticlimactic legato that somehow saps all the bite out of lyrics as delicious as "Are you calling me darling? Are you calling me bird?"), "Evacuate the Dancefloor" has graced my iPod playlist more times in the past year than I ever would have predicted.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Florrie - "Call of the Wild" (Single Review)

Sometimes I wonder lately how any solo female act with even moderately mainstream tendencies could possibly have the balls to peer out at the current girl-domination popular music scene and think "this seems like a great time to try and launch a career!" I mean, this isn't your run-of-the-mill freshman girls' locker room: it's a full-on Amazon battlefield out there, and unless your breasts can shoot whipped cream, machine gun pellets, or pyrotechnics, you're in for a good fight. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...