Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New Music Tuesday - June 28, 2011

Every Tuesday, hoards of new singles, EPs and LPs appear on iTunes, Amazon and in stores everywhere, and a new sales week begins. I enjoy Tuesday sometimes for no other reason than getting to make my way over to the market for my weekly shopping trip. Sometimes there's a ton of fresh and exciting items on offer, while other times there's little worth carrying on home. I'm going to be trying out a few ideas for regular features here on Vertigo Shtick, and this is one that's been flitting around in my head for a long time in some form.

If you have any opinions, comments, or suggestions about my weekly picks, or care to share what you're buying and why (that means no links without a reason we should care!) by all means let me know in the comments (below each post).

So here's what I picked up on iTunes yesterday for the week starting Tuesday, June 28, 2011.*

Beyoncé – 4 ($11.99)

This one is a no-brainer, at least for someone in my position. Beyoncé is one of pop music’s 800-pound gorillas, so when she roars you’re going to hear it one way or another, so you might as well get in on the ground floor. Status aside, I certainly have a keen interest in hearing the new album, as from what I’ve heard and read about 4 it sounds like the critical and industry darling (sixteen Grammy awards before age 30? No sweat!) has chosen to sit out of pop’s nascent. Dance Dance Revolution altogether, instead settling into down-home (if still mainstream-friendly) R&B. I happen to enjoy R&B, so that is not a problem for me in itself, although I am somewhat more annoyed by the “Run the World (Girls)” fake-out now that I’ve learned just how big a fake-out it was. In short, while I would likely have shelled out for 4 at some point in its early charting period were I not occupationally obligated, it would be disingenuous to pretend this purchase had nothing to do with obligations.

Selena Gomez & the Scene – When the Sun Goes Down ($9.99)

I’ve been watching for Selena Gomez’s next move since I first heard the spellbinding, intriguingly mature “A Year Without Rain,” and the promotional singles that preceded today’s release of her third album, the first since her recent graduation from the prestigious Disney academy (Gomez starred on popular Disney Channel program Wizards of Waverly Place). The Scene is her “band,” with whom she tellingly shares billing, and even at 17 it was clear that Gomez had been gifted with some excellent handlers, even beyond the already stellar Disney faculty whose skill at grooming talented, popular, and durable musical artists dates back to the 1950s. Hearing productions and beats that are usually reserved for the adults of the dance scene behind Gomez’s eager, fresh, but noticeably youthful vocals is somehow thrilling, and being a bit out of her league in terms of the sounds around her manages to mature her rather than exposing or emphasizing her as out-of-place. I’ve been addicted to the dubstep-tinged Rock Mafia production “Love You Like a Love Song” as well as the stellar “Whiplash,” which has gotten some buzz since it was co-written by Britney Spears, who ended up not using it on Femme Fatale. Those along with the solid, La Roux-riffing “Bang Bang Bang” were enough to get me sufficiently excited about buying the whole disk upon its release, Beyoncé or no Beyoncé.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

First Look: Britney Spears - "I Wanna Go" Music Video

The video for Britney Spears' new single "I Wanna Go" has landed!

The video for the Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, and Shellback-produced summer jam is directed by Chris Marrs Piliero, most recently of Ke$ha's brilliant clip for "Blow." Watch the new video below!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Femme Fatale Nicki Minaj: Five Great Featured Raps (with Lyrics!)

When it was announced that Britney Spears would be co-headlining a summer tour to support Femme Fatale with Enrique Iglesias, a collective "ugh" rose from Britney fans (and Enrique fans, I imagine) everywhere. Enrique, somewhat understandably, unleashed the diva within the "Dirty Dancer," pulled a hissy fit over the idea that he would be opening for Britney Spears (even though the first time this notion appeared - officially, anyway - was in Iglesias' explanation as to why he dropped out) and bailed.

First Look: NERVO

Beauty is an incredibly effective and sinfully underrated source of power. Talent is similarly effective, though this is more widely recognized. In this moderately enlightened 21st century, women who possess both beauty and talent have begun to rise to the heights their power can take them, despite the efforts of a good deal of men who try to compensate for lacking both by exercising the power of influence, strength or denial. As more and more women begin to realize their power, they have begun to take their rightful places in the upper echelons of many sectors, and gender inequality in certain vocations often has as much to do with self-selection than ability. This is why women like Miriam and Olivia Nervo are so important. Twins and former models from Australia, the Nervo sisters have broken into a wildly male-dominated area of the music industry as songwriters, DJs and producers of dance music. Their inclusion in the lineup for Britney Spears' Femme Fatale Tour, which opens tonight in Sacramento, is small wonder and entirely fitting, and it is exciting that the duo, who perform and work under the mononym NERVO, are soon to be thus receiving such a bump in exposure and opportunities.

First Look: Jessie and the Toy Boys / Single and Video Review: "Push It"

By Contributor Matt Burstyn

When a pop artist emerges into the fray of plastic beauty, auto-tune and popularity it’s easy to compare one artist to another based on similar voices, music styles, looks, choreography, performance, appearance, any similarity in the sky. I could describe Jessie and the Toy Boys by referencing the teasing sexuality of Britney Spears, or highlight gritty lyrics (“That’s good to know, but I’ve got dick like Ron Jeremy, yo”) which can be crudely fabulous in a way reminiscent of Ke$ha, or talk about electro beats that make my ass shake in a way it hasn't since Static Revenger and Luciana’s “I Like That.” But I know that being compared to other artists drives new artists crazy, so I just won't do that.

Jessie and the Toy Boys is one of those semi-dadaist names that isn't as straightforward as it looks. To whom the name refers depends on the medium in which one encounters it and when. "Jessie" is singer Jessie Malakouti wherever and whenever the name is found. The Toy Boys fluctuate, however; in early performances they were simply a group of mannequins, which was almost too clever; for her stint opening Spears' Femme Fatale Tour, which launches today, the Toy Boys have come to life as a pair of blonde dancers; on recordings, though, the Toy Boys are merely an idea, with Jessie doing all the actual musical work. Think of it as a more honest, co-ed version of the Pussycat Dolls.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

First Listen: Kylie Minogue - "Silence"

Kylie Minogue showed that dance music needn't necessarily race by at 130 beats per minute when she combined the sensual lusciousness of the pop ballad with the seductive, minor-key sensuality of dance on her steamy 2003 single "Slow," surely a predecessor to the trance-dance pop style currently enjoying a revival in the wake of Britney Spears' "Till the World Ends." The vibe has clearly registered with audiences as pop music tiptoes away from hip-hop influences and into the realm of dance, and it does make some technical sense. The seemingly sluggish final cut of Ke$ha's "Blow" I railed against prior to Cannibal's release turned out to be far more effective than I'd initially understood, perhaps because it was a shorter leap in tempo from many of the 2010 hits that preceded it (and matched that of her previous, chart-topping single "We R Who We R"). Other artists like Katy Perry ("E.T.") and Dev ("In the Dark") have followed suit in releasing arguably their best singles.

This chill pill seems to be bringing out the best in everyone, really. Maybe that's why several of the higher-profile bonus tracks, B-sides and "leaked" unreleased tracks to surface in recent weeks have the same feel. Ke$ha's "31 Seconds Alone" and new Minogue B-side "Silence" didn't make the final cut on Cannibal or Aphrodite, both generally uptempo dance albums, but then who could have predicted then that it would be "Till the World Ends," not "Hold It Against Me," that would prove the trendsetter of 2011?

"Silence" is a neat B-side off the remix EP for Kylie's latest single "Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love Tonight)." It's instantly alluring, and while it really doesn't sound quite finished, damned if I can't stop going back to it over and over. The verses careen along a melodic line like cars on a twisting roller coaster and never land on a note or beat that seems inevitable - certainly not the standard fare for a mid-2010 pop release and out of the comfortable bounds of the typical single. That's a treat for music lovers like me though, and likely for anyone interested enough to actually read about music, and it's always fun to hear something melodically unpredictable in a genre that typically utilizes basic songwriting templates and innovates on presentation rather than construction.

It's not entirely unlike the aggressively experimental constructions on Beyoncé's "Run The World (Girls)" and Nicola Roberts' "Beat of My Drum," the two Diplo productions currently shaking up the status quo on either side of the Atlantic. US audiences, unsurprisingly, have been less than appreciative though, and Beyoncé's subsequent singles in advance of her July album 4 play it safe (read: boring) to compensate. Guilty of the same disappointing deflation after reaction to early experiments was less than madly ecstatic is Lady Gaga, of all people, who totally wussed out by rushing out the pandering "The Edge of Glory" and "Hair" to sell short an album teeming with superior tracks. The groundwork for the glorious experimental dance revolution in pop music had been laid so expertly by Ke$ha, Robyn and Britney Spears (with some help from Rihanna and Selena Gomez) for Gaga and Beyoncé to carry it on home, but our fearless leaders seem to have unexpectedly gotten cold feet.

But this dance flirtation is just starting out. I wouldn't be surprised if two years from now a lot more sounds like "Silence" or "Run The World (Girls)," or even some of the experiments on Christina Aguilera's poorly executed but very possibly prescient Bionic. If the revolution isn't going to be led by Lady Gaga or Beyoncé after all, it may have to subsist on guerilla warfare for the time being, waged with bonus tracks and B-sides and leaks until Ke$ha, or some as yet unheralded dance pop Messiah, is ready to lead the full charge. Meanwhile, we in the know can revel in the scraps we get tossed like "Silence" and "31 Seconds Alone," and just hope they eventually lead to the gingerbread house.

Kylie Minogue
Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love) -The Remixes EP
EMI, 2011

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