Thursday, December 29, 2011

Luciana: 'Pop My Trigger' - The Album That Got Away (Almost - Listen Here!)

As the waning days of last year faded away, the fabulous and underrated Kimberly Cole suddenly dropped a debut album so fun and brilliant it made the usual worries over all the things left undone and fear about all the things yet unknown fade into bliss. This year, the fabulous and underrated Luciana Caporaso has suddenly released the cuts from a planned US debut album meant for this year but that never saw the light of day, and it's so fun and brilliant it may well make the usual worries over all the things left undone and fears about all the things yet unknown fade into bliss. Only it'll pound them into submission first, because that's the Luciana way, and that's why we love her.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The 12 Days of Shtickmas: Day 4

On the fourth day of Shtickmas, Vertigo Shtick gave to me:

Four nifty words 

hateration (n.) - the display of hostility, judgment or distate, usually toward a person.
Don't need no hateration, holleration in this dancerie. (Mary J. Blige, "Family Affair")
tragical (adj.) - extremely sad (rare usage: generally used to create imperfect rhyme with "beautiful")
Sadness is beautiful; loneliness is tragical. (Backstreet Boys, "Shape of My Heart")
clubbington (n.) - a location, typically active during evening hours, that peddles in alcohol and dance music, particularly moombahton.
We get it poppington up in the clubbington. (Nadia Oh, "Taking Over the Dancefloor")
gizzo (v.) - go (obsolete usage, late 1990s and early 2000s)
Now, ladies, here we gizzo. (Snoop Dogg, "Drop It Like It's Hot")
Three club gems
      Rihanna                                 Dave Aude                          Christina Milian

Two flops we love

J.Lo                                                    BSB

and an obscure song we ♥ by Britney!

Today's song:

"Can't Make You Love Me" (Oops!...I Did It Again)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The 12 Days of Shtickmas: Day 3

On the third day of Shtickmas, Vertigo Shtick gave to me:

Three club gems

TaioKylie                                        Ono                                  GuettaEstelle

Two flops we love

Janet                                                    JC

and an obscure song we ♥ by Britney!

Today's song:

"Phonography" (Circus - Bonus Tracks)

Monday, December 26, 2011

The 12 Days of Shtickmas: Day 2

On the second day of Shtickmas, Vertigo Shtick gave to me:

Two flops we love

Miley                                                    Xtina

and an obscure song we ♥ by Britney!

Today's song:

"(I Got That) Boom Boom" feat. The Yin Yang Twins (In The Zone)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The 12 Days of Shtickmas: Day 1

On the first day of Shtickmas, Vertigo Shtick gave to me:

An obscure song we love by Britney!

Today's Song:

"Bombastic Love" (Oops!...I Did It Again)

Oh yeah...there's more coming. Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2011 Best of Pop - Nominations and Vote for your Favorites!

If there's one lesson to be learned from pop music in 2011, it's that flying solo is all well and good, but nothing gets you over that final hump like a good old collaboration. Your single about sadomasochism stalling out just within the top five? Just call Britney Spears. Worried your album's fourth single might fizzle out in the afterglow of the pyrotechnic breast show you unleashed for the previous one? Sounds like a job for Kanye West! Trying to launch or re-launch a solo career alongside your night job judging a Simon Cowell reality show? That's why God invented Lil Wayne and Pitbull. Sometimes these matchups are ho-hum and forgettable, and sometimes they're ridiculously amazing - interestingly enough, they're just about never fatal.
We're Number One!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The 10 Best Pop Music Videos of 2011 (#6-10)

It's been an interesting year for music videos. Vevo hasn't exactly revolutionized the art form, but it has made a place that artists can display new music videos and the general public can not only watch for free (with a commercial or two) but also embed the videos on Facebook, Twitter, and...well, blogs, without fear of copyright infringement. In a post-MTV/VH1 world (yes, it is) this is really the only reason anyone makes videos anymore, and a good video can really amp up sales and airplay for a new single. Jennifer Lopez's "On the Floor" became the most viewed music video of the year on Vevo after it debuted during American Idol, and the song hit number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 11 on the year-end chart. So let's count down the top ten pop music videos of the year, shall we?

Monday, December 12, 2011

First Listen: Ke$ha - "Sleazy Remix 2.0 Get Sleazier" (feat. Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, T.I., and Andre 3000)

Ke$ha. Wiz Khalifa. Andre 3000. T.I. Lil Wayne. (In order of appearance.) That phenomenal beat by Bangladesh. Penis cleaners. Cleopatra's pussy. A lot of marijuana.

Filthy. Amazing. $leazy as hell.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Best Version of "Santa Baby" (Hint: It's Not Taylor Swift)

I heard Taylor Swift recorded "Santa Baby." This is not welcome news.


I'm countering this with my favorite version of the song (apologies to Eartha Kitt): ladies and gentlemen, Kylie Minogue. (I can't stand Madonna's. I don't care if it's heresy.)



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nicola Roberts - "Yo-Yo" (Music Video Review)

Nicola Roberts this week unveiled the music video for "Yo-Yo," the third single off her rather nifty debut album Cinderella's Eyes. As I watched I wrote down some notes, which turned out to be more interesting on their own than the sum of their parts, so here they are.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Came for the Boobs: Sak Noel, NERVO Make Us Dance, Think

By Techno School, Vertigo Shtick contributor and dance/electronic correspondent 
"I came for the boobs; I stayed for the music"
I KNEW boyfriends were good for something other than sex and free dinners. Sometimes they find you music!

Boyfriend came back from an across-the-pond business trip with fabulous Euro singles in tow! The second he pulled Sak Noel's "Loca People" up on YouTube, I was sold. It's the "We No Speak Americano" of 2011! How have I not heard of this before?!?!

The repetitive—and I mean REPETITIVE—beat to "Loca People" marches on, a backdrop that could easily last for two minutes or two hours and sound like the same thing. Sak Noel's track embodies everything I think of that is "House Music." A steady beat carries the listener through at a relatively slow pace as far as dance music goes. Changes to the melody are minimal and closely mimic the harmonizing beat that is the true heart of the song. Strategically placed vocals and volume changes (oh, how I love the fade-to-mute-and-rise-again trick) keep you interested without overpowering the beat itself. It's very, very house. And it's very, very Spanish.

Although I never had the divine pleasure of going there myself, I have been assured by friends that Spain is THE party capital of the world. The club scene is everything in the big touristy cities of Madrid and Barcelona, and just like the vocalist in this song muses, when the Spanish party, they party all day, all night, all day, all night.... As an American in a city with a struggling nightlife, I wonder to myself, just like the woman singing, “what the f*%&?!?!” Every night, the young Spanish who make up the clubbing scene go out and dance to the most seamless house beats from sundown to sunrise. It's not uncommon for someone to dance through the evening and then go to a restaurant to get chocolate and churros to toast the sunrise before starting the next day's routine. They've got a siesta for a reason.

"Loca People" tells the story of a young woman visiting her friend from Barcelona and discovering this club scene for the first time. She keeps calling her friend Johnny (this song is very Euro in the way that it calls out bits of American language as a novelty) and exclaiming how f*%&ing loca the people are. And then the beat comes back in. Minimalist. Genius. "Barbra Streisand" but with more character and better composition.

Overall, I love love love this song. Out of context, it is a well-written, simplistic house track. Its official video is approaching 16 million views on YouTube at a galactic rate, so I know I'm not the only person who feels this way.

Viewing the music video, though, and taking into account the fact that the female vocalist in "Loca People" gets no prominent feature credit, I start to see the song in a new light. It is very typical house not only in its musical qualities, but also in how women are used as an artistic tool. Noel (who directed and stars in the video) employs two common themes in techno music:
1) A male DJ composing a song with a relatively/completely anonymous, female vocalist
2) Lots of scantily-clad, anonymous women in the music video.
In my opinion, if there is a prominent vocalist on a track who is not the DJ of the song, then he/she (usually she) should get credit for it. Many artists - deadmau5 and David Guetta immediately come to mind - always make sure this happens. Others - Magnetic Man, for instance - do not always follow this rule. A woman's voice is sometimes treated as any other musical instrument being played by the DJ. The vocalist herself gets no authorship in the art.

And Noel's music video? Ugh. I get that things can get crazy in dance clubs, but there are enough female fans of techno music that you'd think there would be less rampant objectification of them in videos. There was one - ONE - half-naked man in the "Loca People" video. A weak showing amongst the festival of women in bikinis parading through with their obligatory booty close-ups. I'm sorry, but if you've ever been to a rave, you know that the guys strip down as much as the gals do. Let's see some of THAT! (Editor's Note: For the record, the vocalist is a Dutch singer named Esthera Sarita; the female lead in the video is Desirée Brihuega. The video below is technically safe but probably unwise for work; the "censored" version is here.)

Boggle my mind as it does, the commodification of women's voices and bodies in techno songs is rampant. Which is why I think new house act NERVO is so cool.

I first learned of NERVO when they were introduced on this very blog. Among the female duet's notable successes is having written one of this humble blogger's favorite songs, one which I've mentioned here before, "When Love Takes Over" (David Guetta feat. Kelly Rowland), and it seems as if they've made the leap from behind-the-scenes to center-stage.

I'm not completely sold on the act quite yet, but I'm intrigued. Their breakout single, "We're All No One" featuring household-nameth Afrojack and LA-growneth Steve Aoki, reminds me of a stripped-down, muted MGMT track. Something feels like it's missing. It feels too safe. From a duo that penned such an epic ballad about submitting one's soul to the throes of head-over-heels romance, I expected more. I think they can do better. From perusing their Myspace, the songs that NERVO chooses to take ownership of rather than release for another artist sound like uninspired, generic house tracks (think college DJ superstar). But I'm staying tuned, because I see potential.

It seems appropriate in a time when there are so few prominent female DJs to highlight NERVO's two official videos for "We're All No One." The song itself is quite thoughtful all on its own, although like "Loca People" it has a very different connotation when considered within the context of its visual representation. Videos aside, the song could simply be a verbalization of the angsty struggles of an insecure generation.
You do your best/you take the fall
You reminisce/about almost nearly having it all
You see the stars/You try and catch one
Oh, you tried so hard/chasing nothing
Because we're all no one 'til someone thinks that we're someone
'Til then we are no one
Whether you're a student buried under loans from attending college for a reason you couldn't quite place a purpose behind or you're a hopeless romantic who doesn't feel like a proper, complete person on your own, a proclamation like this is something you can relate to. It's the combination of the song with the music video, as well as the fact that NERVO is a rare all-female techno act, that puts everything into a different perspective.

In the first of the two, a lyric video, an otherwise vacant black background is filled with paper doll-like photos of blondes and neon-lit lyrics that spiral and swipe through the space. It's clear that the angsty lyrics are based on an entertainer's fight for the spotlight, and particularly a female's; one who's being judged based on her photo more than anything else. And in a world dominated by white dudes, a couple of skinny, blonde chicks are going to have to bring their A-game to be heard, not seen. "We're All No One" is greater than the sum of its parts: put an unmemorable backbeat behind lyrics that spell out a pretty commonplace theme and play it all to a video that is little more than a kaleidoscope of lyrics and blondes, and you get a perfect response to the lack of respected women in the techno world. 

The song's other, more prominent music video is decidedly absent of any political connotations, which makes sense if you assume that the music industry isn't big on spreading propaganda that publicizes its sexist biases. Instead of flat, 2D blondes, you get the girls and a group of what I can only assume are NERVO's hipster model friends running around town and having oodles of fun attempting to buy alcohol with a fake ID, shoplifting, and jumping into a clueless neighbor's pool. (Side note, if I may: is it incredibly thoughtful or incredibly thoughtless that Asian-American Steve Aoki was cast as the convenience store cashier?) The love story between two of the kids in this video underscores lyrics like “And you got me looking at you” more than it does “Oh it gets insane/when you're slipping down that downward slope.” In the context of one video, NERVO makes a statement. In the other, NERVO tells a love story. Fascinating how much of what we see can affect what we hear.

Like I said, I'm not convinced yet that NERVO has lasting power. They're making the rounds though, having made an appearance at the inaugural Escape from Wonderland event this past Halloween after opening for Britney Spears over the summer. I'll be keeping tabs to see how they progress. If they came up with "When Love Takes Over," I have faith that there are more tricks up their sleeves. They'd best get to it, and get to it fast. We need more women taking over the techno scene. Techno School is currently based in Detroit.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Submit Your Nominations for the 2011 Readers Poll (Giveaway!)

This year Vertigo Shtick will host its first end-of-year readers' poll, with nominations from me, fellow pop music bloggers/big-shots, and readers at large (that's you!).

Friday, November 18, 2011

First Look: Anjulie - 'Stand Behind The Music'

In perfect timing with this site's excellent interview with pop rebel Anjulie (or was it the other way around? You decide), the "Brand New Bitch" singer premiered her new single "Stand Behind The Music" along with its politically charged music video based on the "Occupy Wall Street" protests.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Boom! She's a Brand New Bitch: An Interview with Anjulie

After a technical issue on my end and then a mixup in time zones on theirs, on our third try I managed to connect with dance-pop singer Anjulie for a phone chat on a gloomy late afternoon a couple weeks ago. The Canadian-born singer of Guyanese descent released the pounding dance single "Brand New Bitch" early this year, and a remix by DJ/producer Laidback Luke dropped about a month ago (hear it below). Before I got into my questions I told her that I had been introduced to her music when a friend randomly texted me that Anjulie's song "Boom" made her "want to rape my boyfriend," to which Anjulie replied "I love it." She was fun to talk to, and very smart. Here's what went down.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Ke$ha Project: 'The Harold Song' and Social Single Strategy

All right, folks, the Messiah of Pop has called upon us, and we have some work to do.

The electro-pop closeted genius Ke$ha resurfaced this weekend on Twitter after a relatively quiet period of touring, recording with Alice Cooper, and "camping in the woods," which could very well be the newest euphemism for "recording the biggest sophomore album of 2012" but we don't want to get ahead of ourselves.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11 Amazing Pop Songs That Peaked at #11: A List for 11/11/11

Today, and only today, if you mix the Gregorian calendar with Arabic numerals you come out with a date that looks pretty wicked: 11/11/11. Even in the UK and elsewhere where the order of month/day/year differs just to screw with our minds, for one day the Western world is united. It's like a fourth dimension "do a barrel roll!" And what better way for a chart junkie pop music blogger with a love of pointless research to celebrate than with a list (and music videos!) of 11* amazing pop songs that peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart!

Hush, just stop...
So read, watch, listen, reminisce, and give these eleven unsung pop heroes a day of revived glory even though they couldn't quite hack their way into the top ten. (You might also care to make use of the 11 Amazing Pop Songs That Peaked at #11 Spotify playlist, which can be found here.)

First Listen: Rihanna - 'You Da One' (Brand New Single)

Hey everybody, Rihanna unlocked the second single from her upcoming album Talk That Talk this morning, called "You Da One," and you can listen to it here! (Click "Continue Reading" below!)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Apparently There's a Leak: Piracy, Publicity and the Press

We extort and pilfer, we filch and sack...
Back in 2007 when Britney Spears' superb album Blackout was released, I had not yet committed myself to a life of honorable obtainment of digital music, nor had I started my first paying job post-graduate school. Needless yet shameful to say, I didn't pay for my copy at that time. I got most of it from Kazaa or Limewire, I imagine, and until recently I never bothered even to obtain an official copy to check mine against, which was why I remained for many years confused as to why the copy of "Break the Ice" I had at one point sounded different from my memory of the version I had years earlier, and unsure from whence the deviation might have come.

Nicki Minaj and Big Sean Do a Little 'Dance (A$$)' [Remix]

Nicki Minaj is, without question, the biggest female in hip-hop at the moment, and until Missy Elliott returns this isn't likely to change any time soon. Not if the Young Money rapper keeps letting loose the kind of head-turning, eye-popping brilliance she has done as a featured artist, most notably on Kanye West's single "Monster," where she showed up Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and 'Ye himself...and that's maybe an Eminem and a Lil' Wayne short of the rap pantheon. As Minaj released her solo debut Pink Friday and became a success as a solo artist with Hot 100 number three hit "Super Bass," I worried a bit that her feature days were perhaps over as we knew them, and since I was more impressed by those than her solo efforts, that would have been disappointing.

Two Big Bad Wolves
Now, thanks to rising star Big Sean, I need worry no more.

First Listen: Kay - 'Going Diamond' (feat. Kurtis Blow)

The way it keeps spewing fascinating pop singers our way, Canada might just be the next Sweden. Canada has given us some of the most wonderful gifts: Alanis Morissette (and Ryan Reynolds); Shania Twain; Celine Dion; Justin Bieber; Deborah Cox; Nelly Furtado; Feist; k.d. lang; Anjulie...the list goes on. One of the latest forces to make its way into American ears from our good ol' neighbors to the North, eh, is the blonde bit of brilliance known as Kay.

This is Kay. Get it?
Kay has fascinated me since she appeared on Doctor Rosen Rosen's stellar EP Girls, Volume 1 (see how I fawned over their collaboration "Hot"), which included as a bonus track one of the singer's breakout singles "M.A.J.O.R." - also produced by the good Doctor and subsequently remixed by none other than Tiësto. Since then, Kay, who has wisely gone from ho-hum dirty blonde to platinum hottie in recent months, has appeared on singles by techno big shots Diplo and Datsik ("Pick Your Poison") and Tiësto ("Work Hard, Play Hard").

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Music Tuesday (Albums): Florrie, Nadia Oh and More

Every Tuesday, hoards of new singles, EPs and LPs appear on iTunesAmazon and in stores everywhere, and a new sales week begins. Each week (or so) I post what I’ve bought, sometimes with tacit recommendation and sometimes with the hesitation of an experimenter. Sometimes I'm late and post on a Thursday. Stuff happens. If you have any opinions, comments, or suggestions about my weekly picks, or care to share what you're buying and why, please do so in the comments!

*Pick of the Week* 
Florrie - Experiments (EP) (iTunesAmazon)

Florrie Arnold is the house drummer for Xenomania, the UK production company one might call the British answer to Dr. Luke (although it predates our beloved manufacturer of pop hits by a few years, though not his sensei Max Martin, much of whose influence is apparent). She is also a rather head-turning up-and-comer as a solo musician and has just released her second EP, following 2010's aptly named Introduction, which didn't do much for me outside its killer opener "Call of the Wild," which thoroughly conquered my soul. Experiments, on the other hand, has absolutely captured me, and every song from beginning to end has me hooked, like I'm in some kind of fabulously orchestrated dream. "Speed of Light" is destined to be my first date anthem for life; "Begging Me" is a rollicking romp through impressive wordplay; "What You Doing This For?" is one of the first breakup songs to bring me peace rather than pain; and "Experimenting with Rugs"... well, "Experimenting with Rugs" is just pretty damn brilliant. The $2.96 price tag on iTunes is a steal.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Underrated Women of Pop 2011 - Rye Rye (20)

Quick, name all the current female rappers you can think of. Yes, that's one... Okay, so I'm going to go out on a limb and guess most of you who don't catch 106 & Park (and probably all of you who don't know what that is) came up with fewer than two. Pop music being in a time when collaborations are common and often great ways to help artists gain exposure or reach across genres, the fact is that for the foreseeable future, where there's pop, there will be rappers. Nowadays this basically means any song with a rap feature has a dude either talking about booty and ho's or making a big deal out of how he's not talking about booty and ho's, or Nicki Minaj. As tempting as it sometimes is to say "Oh, just put Nicki on everything!" this is sort of problematic. Nicki only has a certain amount of wig colors. But with Lil' Kim lusterless after her stint in the slammer and Missy Elliott taking her sweet time being amazing and fighting disease and such, we're in a place where if Nicki has to call in sick or something, we're fucked.

Enter Ryeisha Berrain, the 20 year old Baltimore rapper known as Rye Rye. She first came to many pop listeners' attention (mine included) when she released the single "Never Will Be Mine," which samples the hook of Robyn's all-time best song (IMHO) "Be Mine" and is themed accordingly. The single and its video, in which Robyn gamely appears and does a few of her by-now signature dance moves and looks generally fabulous as usual, are remarkable for the subtlety of its high-cult prowess: I mean, Robyn on a track is like lamb blood on the door, showing European listeners (and, more importantly, producers and djs), American hipsters and pop-leaning snobs you're in on what's up with popular music right now instead of embedded in an increasingly insular R&B scene. The video, which comes in both the main mix as well as the Krazy Kat dance remix (which is quite good - see video below - and the version I prefer), the R3hab remix (also good) isn't exactly action-packed, but it's a fashion and emotions video (and look! Robyn!).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Ke$ha Project: 'Run Devil Run' (From K-Dolla to K-Pop)

It's weird that people make such a thing about Ke$ha and AutoTune as though she was entirely devoid of singing ability when in fact she's done a good deal of background vocal and demo work, which requires an incredible amount of accuracy and cleanliness of vocals. One of the best demos she was asked to record is "Run Devil Run," a solid slice of prime pop merchandise with smoothly flowing verses, dramatic, supersized chorus and outro, and a glorious, very Ke$ha-esque spoken bridge.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Labrinth feat. Tinie Tempah - "Earthquake" (Single Review & Music Video)

I've been looking forward to the next move from UK producer Labrinth since I heard the beat drop for the first time on Yasmin's excellent single "Finish Line," a finalist for this year's Popjustice 20 Quid Prize. What was remarkable about "Finish Line" was how Labrinth's production was anything but transparent - I was moved to actively seek him out - while neither did that mean that Yasmin therefore became part of the production as a tool for his artistic project. Her vocal performance and his production played more as a duet, one pulling back whenever the other had the main, which they passed back and forth to one another like ball players.

First Listen: Luciana - "USA Let's Go Go Go!"

Songs about emigrating to America tend to be pretty grim, if you think about it. There were the woeful songs sung by Africans being shipped over as slaves that eventually evolved into the blues; the snarkily ironic West Side Story number is sung by Puerto Rican immigrants who aren't sure they're better off; even the Russian mice who naively chorus "No Cats in America" in An American Tail quickly discover their error. The only really positive "moving to the States" tune of any consequence was the Jessie J-penned "Party in the U.S.A.," but instead of getting to use it as her great introductory single, we took it off her hands and gave it to one of our silver spoon Disney daughters for her graduation. Yeah, the United States may be the ultimate ballgame for pop music, but it is also a collective asshole to almost anyone who wasn't born here, so if you want to get in from outside you must either charm, sneak, or fight your way in. We wouldn't let Amy Winehouse come to LA to get her fucking Grammys, after making a huge show of inviting her, too. Face it. America is a dick.

The real Luciana

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Britney Spears - "Criminal" (Music Video Review)

Are you ready for the most entertaining Britney Spears video since "Toxic?"

For Spears' newest video, for surprise fourth single "Criminal," the midtempo closer off Femme Fatale, Britney and "I Wanna Go" director Chris Marrs Piliero have gone back to the Oops!... I Did It Again era that comes rushing into the song's middle eight like a fond memory. Everything from the closeups of the lovelorn, raised-eyebrow Spears to the emphasis on the boobs (fake? real? Who cares anymore!?) to the acting (Britney is a great comic actor who should do more with it) to the hunkalicious, if slightly older-looking (with clothes on) man-candy, this time played by real boytoy Jason Trawick.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Underrated Women of Pop 2011: Neon Hitch (21)

21. Neon Hitch

When your parents name you "Neon Hitch" I suppose you're obligated to do something cool with your life, and if you're creative and intelligent and can sing and enjoy getting a little weird, so much the better. The British singer-songwriter has a lot going for her: kickass name, red hair, and the support and partnership of producer Benny Blanco, the Max Martin disciple behind many of Ke$ha and Britney Spears' recent hits. (Hitch co-wrote and sang backup vocals on Ke$ha's "Blah Blah Blah.")

Friday, October 14, 2011

Underrated Women of Pop 2011: Nervo (22)


Mim & Liv Nervo are a one-stop revolution in themselves merely by existing, although fortunately their talents don't stop at novelty. The blonde twins and former models from Australia wouldn't look out of place on any dance floor or in any music video, but the difference is these girls actually make music themselves - a rare enough feat in general but practically unheard of in their chosen genre of dance/electronica.

And don't let the blonde hair fool you: they are fully aware of their natural, physical talents as much as their artistic ones, and the two have leveraged these into a remarkably swift ascent from songwriting (for Ke$ha, Armin van Buuren and recently Rihanna) to producing to high-profile gigs opening for Britney Spears and in residency at the Wynn in Las Vegas, and now to their upcoming, all-encompassing debut album, on which Mim & Liv will write, produce, and perform themselves.

That complete artistic control is rare in electronica (Owl City and are among the few with such triple input) and all but unprecedented for women. Recent debut single "We're All No One" is a monumental bitchslap in the face of the old boys' club of techno, the only genre more institutionally sexist than country. That is at least, if NERVO have anything to say about it, for now.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Underrated Women of Pop 2011 - Lindsay Lohan (23)

23. Lindsay Lohan

All right, I know this one might have you suddenly reevaluating the merits of this list, but hear me out. It's actually pretty simple really. It's more than unnerving to realize that there is a notable and growing number of people who won't remember that once upon a time, before Lindsay Lohan was a Pitbull lyric/fingernail artist supreme, before the "misfiring" ankle bracelets and the "misunderstandings" over expensive jewelry, before the Disney alumna/mean girl revealed she was gay (and NO ONE GAVE A HERBIE'S HOOT), la Lohan actually had a successful film career and a succ... well, a music career as well, and oh by the way she wasn't half bad, either.

Sure, "Rumors" is no Mean Girls; it's a less deftly executed "Piece of Me" and even I can't defend the abuse of AutoTune, but a. the vocal producxtion on the dance break is pretty 2011 for 2002 (see "Swagger Jagger," etc.); b. the music video has a dance sequence atop an LA skyscraper; and c. I still like it a decade later, so it must have done something right.

But it's not "Rumors" making me pine for Lindsay's return. No, it's "Bossy," of course! Imagine this: Ne-Yo is approached to write a kick-ass song not for Mary J. Blige or Rihanna but for Lindsay Locked-Up Lesbian Lush Lohan, and he does, and Stargate produces it. And LINDSAY KILLS IT. Ne-Yo later told Billboard "we gave her a quality record and she did a ridiculously fabulous job. I was so shocked I had to call her and apologize for what I was thinking because she did so good." It's an awesome song that hit the top of the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart in 2008, the first and so far only Lohan tune to reach that peak, and deservedly so. It's amazing.

Look, we need Lindsay Lohan back, for her sake and ours. There are many reasons this is so. But take a listen to "Bossy" and let me know afterward if you still need me to give you more of them. La la la la, la la la la...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Underrated Women of Pop 2011 - Frenchie Davis (24)

24. Frenchie Davis

America sure is one damned Puritan country in some ways. Does it bother anyone else that thanks to this country's vehement opposition to sex, the enormously talented Frenchie Davis is still looking for a job? Does it bother anyone else much more that Simon Rex (note: white male)  now does cameos in Ke$ha videos, so successful was his career in the music industry, while Frenchie Davis (black female) has yet to land a record deal or sign with a label? It should.

Davis was ousted from the second season of American Idol after five-year-old topless photos of her turned up online (Rex became a popular VH1 "vee-jay" and television actor despite some hardcore solo adult videos in his past). She then landed a gig as the soloist in "Seasons of Love" in the Broadway company of Rent, which she held, off and on, for four years. Finally, Davis resurfaced earlier this year on the premiere season of NBC's hit Idol competitor The Voice, where she was a finalist on Team Christina Aguilera, who clearly didn't give a hoot about Frenchie's hooters. After impressing the judges and audiences alike with her renditions of "I Kissed a Girl," "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," and the especially amazing "When Love Takes Over," Davis was ultimately felled by rocker Beverly McLellan in the semifinals.

Normally I'm of the "if you were really cut out for this stuff you wouldn't need a reality show" school of thought, but Frenchie Davis is the real deal. She's terribly cool (big, black and bald, muthafuckaaas), she's a fat black woman and still had folks paying to see her in the nude (bitches...she's that fierce), she's now been in and around the entertainment business for a decade, and most of all the girl can SANG. I don't mean "oh, she has a very nice voice, which is so rarely true of black women, isn't it," I mean Frenchie Davis sings very well with a voice that's quite nice to hear and, most importantly, doesn't sound like anyone else's voice. Oh, I want to loan her my apartment and let her use the iMac microphone and a bootleg version of GarageBand for PC just so I can finally hear an entire album of Frenchie Davis singing songs. It really should not have to come down to that.

Frenchie Davis - "When Love Takes Over (Studio Version)"
The Voice
Frenchie Davis' Official Site

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Underrated Women of Pop 2011 - Beth Ditto (25)

25. Beth Ditto

The journey to electro-pop has been an unlikely one for Beth Ditto. Born in the South, Ditto and bandmates Brace Paine, Kathy Mendonoca and Hannah Billie found indie success as the band Gossip, whose "Standing in the Way of Control" was both a 2007 hit and a theme song for the alternative movement. Then Ditto struck out on her own, journeying into the electonic realm. From there she churned out "I Wrote the Book," a skilled, understated bit of grade-A electronic dance-pop that doubled as a master class in effective Madonna homage right at the time a certain overzealous megastar was getting it all very very wrong. In fact, Ditto was so open about her references (not least in the music video, an unabashed "Justify My Love" shoutout) freeing her and her work to be seen and admired for her own style and originality. Perhaps the most striking thing about Ditto doing electronic dance is her voice, at once high and deep, feminine and powerful, light and controlled, with a timbre that had a great deal to do with Gossip's appeal.

We're still waiting to hear about further solo projects, though "I Wrote the Book" took a while before finally impacting the Billboard Dance Chart, though it peaked outside the top ten. Ditto didn't win any friends in pop circles when she picked an unfair and icky fight with Katy Perry in 2009, but she seems smart enough to avoid repeating such missteps, and, for that matter, to be the kind of knowing, super-skilled outsider pop artist a la Kelis or Gwen Stefani.

The 25 Most Underrated Women of Pop 2011

I'll be honest. Every time I see a new Rihanna single shoot effortlessly to the top of every chart, hurdling over dozens of often far worthier songs that have struggled to make whatever impact they've managed far more than their merit ought to require, it upsets me. "We Found Love" is a fine song, possibly even a good one, but in no infinitesimal way is it superior to at least a dozen other singles currently out that I could name on demand from the top of my head, and a couple dozen more of which I might need to be reminded a bit. I've made known my strong disagreement with the current practices of mainstream radio stations, the vast majority of which are owned by Clear Channel Communications, and I won't detail them here, but I'm getting awfully close to the "mad as hell/not going to take it anymore" platform and Rihanna and Calvin Harris aren't helping things.

Now, I have also stated my belief that popular music is not a limited industry wherein one act's success by definition reduces that of the rest. In general, I stand firmly by this view, but I wish to amend it slightly from this point forward. While the music industry in general is in theory an industry of limitless potential for success, mainstream radio is operated in such a way that space is in fact limited - and, I would argue, tremendously and excessively limited - by the policies and practices of Clear Channel et. al. (to be fair, airtime is technically limited by the laws of nature, but those limits don't come close to affecting anything in the current practice). Therefore insofar as mainstream pop radio is concerned, any one single's success limits that of any others, or in layman's terms, when Rihanna, Adele, Katy Perry or Lil Wayne releases a single that is actively promoted by radio stations, people like Robyn, Kylie Minogue, and, often, even Britney Spears get told to take a hike and the public gets to be bombarded with an endless deluge of the same four or five songs ad nauseum and also a fairy dies. "We found love in a hopeless place?" Rihanna hasn't seen a hopeless place in years and wouldn't know one if it bit her in the behind.

The latest Rihanna riddle got me thinking about all of the good female pop and dance artists out there right now who have gotten a fraction of the attention and opportunity they deserve, if that at all. Then I remembered that unlike Clear Channel subsidiary stations, or corporation-owned music media outlets, or supposedly "independent" producers of entertainment journalism whose objectivity is compromised by the for-profit conglomerate to which they belong (cough cough),* I don't have to play along if I don't want to because...well, lots of reasons, but the point is I do have this platform of my creation, however modest, from which I can (and doth) protest as much as methinks necessary. That all sounds really annoying and Lyndon LaRouche-y, I know, but what it all boils down to (my friends) is that even if everyone else and their mother's hamster is talking about Rihanna and Adele and...that's kind of it, really, I get to talk about whoever and whatever songs I damn well please. So I started making a list of these underrated women of pop, and my original idea of ten grew to the countdown that will be rolled out over the next few weeks and revised annually henceforth.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby present the inaugural Underrated Women of Pop countdown, featuring 25 ladies who ought to be much bigger than they are. Comment, argue, suggest your own, and most importantly, spread the word!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fresh Air - Dev, Alexandra Stan and Selena Gomez Hit Mainstream Radio

Along with a lovable band of fellow chart junkies, I have been following the daily mainstream radio airplay updates for some time through the new forums at, and though there's plenty about the data that aggravates me to pieces, it sure is a lot less infuriating than actually listening to the radio, and at least this way I'm still informed. I've learned a few things in the relatively short period I've been receiving these daily numbers, some of them rather fascinating. For one thing, even I was taken aback at first by how short the list is of tracks receiving enough airplay to earn a significant number of audience impressions: it's rarely as long as forty, and the artists are either predictable A-listers or newcomers with a huge digital hit (usually the former). Another disturbing factoid is that the songs at the very top of the list tend to have nearly if not over twice the impressions as the tenth highest track, nearly three times as many as the twentieth, and so forth. And because unlike digital charts the airplay numbers move like molasses (+/- .500 is an average daily movement; a big movement up or down is anything over 1.0 and nothing moves more than 3.0 in a day) it can take forever for a track at the peak to fall. A final interesting note is that since I've been watching there have usually been more tracks falling than rising of those in the top 20; currently four of the top ten and eight of the top 22 are on the way down.

Dev Alexandra Stan Selena Gomez
Newcomers (l-r) Dev, Alexandra Stan and Selena Gomez are breaking into mainstream radio.
It's enormous fun when a newcomer appears on the board, especially one that isn't a gimme, and watching the little saplings fighting their way up amongst the giant redwoods is incredibly rewarding (we even have a cheerleading emoticon that gets a good deal of use). There are a few chart junkie favorites too, namely Britney Spears, Lady Gaga (this is the only place that fans of the two don't bicker, actually), Kelly Clarkson, and Nicki Minaj, while we all tend to just kind of look on at Adele with dazed amazement and treat Katy Perry and Rihanna (if at all) as sort of necessary evils. Nobody ever badmouths anyone - it's like a modeling agency, really, where everyone is nice and every statement is a positive one. It's incredibly refreshing, really.

Right now there are three such underdogs my forum friends and I cheer on from the sidelines, and each represents a different kind of coup, each one as exciting as the last. These three songs have a few things in common: they are all by solo(ish) female artists; these artists are (relatively) new; all three are dance-infused and could easily span into dance airplay and club play (and, in most cases, have already); finally, all three of them are excellent records, and immensely deserving of airplay and the associated renown and popularity, both for the track and especially for the artists. These common traits are actually among the things that separate them from the rest of the tracks getting airplay alongside them at present, which I find fascinating and, if I may be bold, promising. So what's so great about Dev, Alexandra Stan and Selena Gomez or their respective singles that have allowed them to break through the imposing barrier to mainstream radio rotations?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Songs You May Have Missed: Luciana Edition

American clubgoers and fans of Jersey Shore may know of Luciana Caporaso, the bad bitch from Britain who's been knocking European and Australian audiences flat for years, from the Richard Vission/Static Revenger song "I Like That," which made waves after being included on the iconic MTV show's first soundtrack album. Well, we Americans have now said "I Like That" to Luciana, whose first charting single in the US, "I'm Still Hot," has just hit #1 on the Dance Club Songs chart. In honor of the paint-throwing, dollar bill-loving singer, songwriter and all-around badass, I thought I'd revive our Songs You May Have Missed series with a special Luciana edition. Get familiar with her or live to regret it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tony Bennett Pops in on Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse on "Duets II" (Single/Album Review)

Tony Bennett is one of those pop legends whose enduring success effectively takes many of the usual complaints about pop music of the day levied by the elder generations and renders them hooey. (I can't believe "hooey" is in this dictionary that can't even handle "texting.") He rarely if ever wrote his own music; his style neither approached any bounds of tradition nor bothered to evolve in any notable way for the past half century. Perhaps his appeal is of a similar sort as that of Michael Bublé, Josh Groban, Michael Feinstein, Barbra Streisand or even Susan Boyle and Norah Jones, singers who tap into the nostalgia of the folks who still do backwards things like buying CDs (yes, like actual hardware! I know! It's totally nuts!) and have musical tastes to match.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Feeling "Inside Out"

By Kurt Bitter, Contributing Writer

I’m in a very strange place right now. I accepted a job offer that requires me to move from Southern California, where I’ve lived my entire life, to Seattle, a city I’ve never been to. I’m excited and nervous and anxious and scared, and I know that there are several sacrifices I’ll need to make in the coming months. I’ll need to sacrifice sunlight for full-spectrum interior lighting. I’ll need to sacrifice the comfort of living in a city I’ve grown to love for the adventure of turning a new place into my home. I’ll need to sacrifice the 45-minute drive to my parents’ house for a 3-hour plane ride. And while I won’t sacrifice the actual friendships I’ve made in LA, I’ll need to set aside room for new ones.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Investigating Remix Culture (Part I) - Hide and Seek

By Techno School, Vertigo Shtick contributor and dance/electronic correspondent 

When presented with a difficult challenge, one must decide: fight or flight?

Ignoring my natural urges to distract my personal demons using mounds of food and entire seasons’ worth of Weeds, I instead delved into the pit and stared these evils in the face. In an attempt not to run from my pain, I pored through photos of an old friend I can no longer look to for support, bring into my life in a meaningful way. Someone I’ve had to put a huge wall up in front of, because our closeness only has the power left to hurt me. 

To be or not to be credited... that is the question. (Imogen Heap)
Emo, I know.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Listen: Jessie and The Toy Boys - 'Naughty'

About two weeks ago I posted a few ideas on career planning strategies in an open letter to Jessie Malakouti of Jessie and The Toy Boys. My main talking point involved releasing the fantastic "Money Makes the Girl Go 'Round" as a single, now that she's fresh off a wildly successful run opening for Britney Spears on the Femme Fatale Tour. I also brought up a few additional ideas for moves that could maximize her exposure and maintain her momentum, including a particular personal cause:
"Cough up a recording of “Naughty” already. Those who had the fortune of seeing you perform it on the Femme Fatale Tour will want to purchase it for a mere dollar without question. Those who did not get to see said tour (and thereby this song) want to HEAR the damn song and for that opportunity they will surely cough up a buck twenty-nine without blinking (probably two or three bucks for a mini-EP with a remix or two thrown in)...I speak as one who knows that pain. *spinning maniacally a la Neve Campbell/Ana Faris* WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, HUH? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!?!?!?!?!"


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