Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Music Tuesday: David Guetta, Esperanza Spalding and More

Every Tuesday, hoards of new singles, EPs and LPs appear on iTunes, Amazon and in stores everywhere, and a new sales week begins. Each week (well, most of them) I post what I’ve bought, sometimes with tacit recommendation and sometimes with the hesitation of an experimenter. 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!

+ David Guetta - Nothing But the Beat (iTunes, Amazon)

Like many people, I am conflicted when it comes to French DJ/producer David Guetta. My impression that I've gleaned from the outskirts of the dance scene is that dance and house devotees are pretty cool on Guetta (as in the opposite of warm, not the opposite of Barry Manilow), who may or may not have been at one point a major player in the genre before exploring a pop crossover with his 2009 album One Love, which a lot of folks saw as selling out. He has his pop detractors as well, who usually fault him for his ubiquity and cliched predictability, which can seem patronizing as well since a) he's French - they're born patronizing Americans, and b) he is unquestionably adept at his craft and, the assumption is, capable of far better work than he's contributed to pop/mainstream music. I don't have strong feelings on him either way; I generally find his pop work enjoyable in the kind of unremarkable way I enjoy Dr. Luke songs or Kelly Clarkson singles. 

Guetta's new album is like a Robert Altman movie, with an enormous cast of nearly all household names from the current pop and dance rosters, several of whom get to show off different talents than they're known for and several of whom just coincidentally happen to be in the midst of attempting to break into the US pop market with debut albums recently dropped or right around the corner. I had no hesitations about purchasing it, especially since so many singles from the album have been released previously that the "Complete My Album" price on iTunes was a mere pittance, and having played it through once while working on other activities (i.e. hearing it but not paying super close attention yet) my money was not wasted. For those who prefer to just grab some highlights, I might suggest the Nicki Minaj track "Turn Me On" (Minaj sings, and I mean I KNOW I AM A RAPPER I'M SINGING BECAUSE I AM VERY GOOD AT THAT TOO JUST FYI I'M A MOTHERFUCKING MONSTER singing), the basically flawless Snoop Dogg track "Sweat" (Snoop also sings and is at his most accessible, beyond even "California Gurls"), the interesting and effective "Titanium" featuring Sia, a hipster fave best known for writing the slightly better crap ballads on Bionic and weird-for-the-sake-of-weird pronunciation who for some reason replaces original vocalist Mary J. Blige (whose rendition I frankly prefer, although both have comparable merits), and "I Can Only Imagine," one of maybe two tracks that actually grabbed my attention during that first casual listen with something both unexpected and appealing, so much so that it has gotten me to lift my previously absolute ban on any work by Chris Brown, as I am enormously opposed to battery; he remains on super-ultimate probation, however.


+ Esperanza Spalding - "Life of a Ripple" (iTunes)

I was among those who were overjoyed by obscure contemporary jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding's surprise Grammy win for Best New Artist over Justin Bieber, Drake, and other major players, and after having the great fortune to attend the live concert rendition of her excellent sophomore album Classical Music Society I became an instant fan and apologist. I saw this new single on the new music listing section of the R&B/Soul genre listing and purchased it without a second thought. I've not yet played it through but it sounds like a live recording of a typically free-verse bit of more familiar sounding jazz than her last album, whose gimmick and to great extent appeal was the use of classical strings to make up most of the combo rather than traditional brass and reeds. I'll report back.

Mayra Veronica - "Freak Like Me" (iTunes)

This dance track spent some time on the Billboard Dance Club Play chart a few weeks or months back, though I remember being underwhelmed by what I think was a brief and non-committal stab at not really listening to it at the time. I thought Karma might appreciate my ninety-nine cent penance, and the song isn't bad, and is even occasionally rather pleasing, but had I heard it first I would likely not have been moved to purchase it if I had felt no debt owed. But I won't delete it either.

Dillon Francis & Diplo - "Que Que" (feat. Maluca) (iTunes)

This one amused me, because Maluca opened for Robyn on the latter's second US tour last year, and my friends in attendance and I found her to be the very essence of obnoxious. Musically she made no sense in context of the evening, in presentation she was clearly not tapped into her audience because L.A. cannot process the kind of frenetic energy from the kind of spastic human amphetamine she was on stage, nor any inclination to try; and it was also impossible to understand anything she was saying/singing/shouting, if indeed it was anything. Even I, who can usually find something to pretend to enjoy in anything I've paid to enjoy, happily spent the latter half of her seemingly endless set out on the smoking deck, lung cancer seeming preferable at the time to the alternative. But you know how I feel about Diplo (well, you don't know entirely, which is probably a good thing), and he's done a good deal of work for the New York-based artist, who is sort of the second-rate non-union Mexican equivalent of M.I.A. (just think about what that might be for a second. Yeah.), and he's also hot as a burrito after three minutes in the microwave and I like buying his music because some deluded and shamelessly leery part of me has the fantastically illogical idea that it increases my chances of having sex with him, and I haven't bothered to set it straight. The song is good, nothing special (it is a collaboration, with DJ Dillon Francis, who while certainly no Diplo is not terrible to look at himself...because that's what matters with dance music producers), Diplo isn't showing off at all beyond the built-in assholery of just being as good as Diplo is when he's not trying, so it's a good playlist track but nobody's getting pregnant.

Tiesto - "Work Hard Play Hard" (feat. Kay) (iTunes)

I have become completely obsessed with Kay over the last couple weeks and I have no idea precisely why, which of course makes me obsess more trying to figure it out. I imagine I will either succeed at that or give up trying to locate a rationale that makes sense to me and deciding to ride on the faith that there is still a lot of stuff in music or life that I haven't figured out in the slightest and it must include a rationale for my obsession with an artist who doesn't actually seem all that amazing (yet) to my conscious mind. Of course this means I'm buying or grabbing up anything that appears with her work featured in the hopes of understanding this bizarre devotion, which this week is a dance single by Tiesto, who is the only one of the giants of the current dance scene (as I understand it) with whose work I am entirely unfamiliar. This is probably not the best to start with, because I find it sort of dull, even Kay's part, and Kay is never dull. So...I continue to be unable to figure anything out relating to Kay and her music.

And so deeper into the Kay hole.

Yep, that's kind of how I feel.
Expect more on this matter sometime in the near-ish future.

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