Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Britney Spears Announces Summer Tour with Enrique Iglesias...Who Bails Out Moments Later!

It wouldn't be a Britney Spears release day without a little crazy, I suppose...and this ish is top shelf!

This morning, Britney announced on Good Morning America that she'd be going on tour to support Femme Fatale this June (not terribly surprising), but she'd be co-headlining with Enrique Iglesias, whose recent bilingual album Euphoria produced two singles that peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Not the most ideal pairing, but not as obviously disastrous as the Lady Gaga/Kanye West "Fame Kills" debacle that never was - mainly because it was announced the day after West coined the phrase "...and I'ma let you finish, but..." and the gig was canceled hours after the announcement.

Funny how history repeats itself: just MOMENTS after Spears' announcement this morning, Billboard.biz announced that Iglesias had pulled out of this North American tour thingamajig, for reasons as yet undisclosed. (Guess he didn't wanna gooo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o.) Hey, remember when Nicki Minaj did the exact same thing when Rihanna announced her Last Girl on Earth tour with Ke$ha?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Britney Spears - "I'm A Slave 4 U" (Why It's Brilliant and How It Changed Everything)

I remember the first time I heard Britney Spears’ single “I’m A Slave 4 U” with unusual clarity and detail. It was the afternoon before Spears premiered the single at the MTV Video Music Awards, clad in trademark midriff-baring top with white slacks and accessorized with a giant boa…not the feathered kind, mind you; she rocked the whole python.

Britney Spears I'm A Slave 4 U Snake VMAs

It was a perfect synergy of sound and showmanship, one of the most perfectly executed performances (which you can watch below) that exemplify the confluence of the musical, the visual, and the concept of the star that is unique to the art form we generally call “pop music” (although as a defining term it is far from perfect). Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” video, Madonna’s video and VMA performance of “Vogue” (to name but one), and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video all similarly perfected this ideal. And lest skeptics consider this a new idea born of an era devoid of “real music,” I might point to some older examples of musical and visual elements and the concept of “star” coming together: the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, Barbra Streisand’s Concert in Central Park, the Who’s Tommy, Elvis Presley in general, and let’s not forget a little festival at Woodstock, which both represented and defined the image, sound and culture of an entire pop musical era. Oh yes, like it or not, pop music has always been a visual and sociological as well as musical art form since decades before Britney Spears was even born – essentially, since the invention and proliferation of the television.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Alex Gaudino feat. Kelly Rowland - "What A Feeling" (Single Review)

A few months ago I expounded upon the pop music gold that can result when a veteran top-shelf singer and a veteran top-shelf producer join forces, as I said Pink and Max Martin had done on the new single "Raise Your Glass," which went on to hit number one on the Hot 100 - and the review remains Vertigo Shtick's most visited post to date. Other such divine collaborations come to mind, like Madonna and William Orbit dramatically redefining not just Madonna's musical direction but that of pop music itself with Ray of Light; the continuing strength of old production partners Missy Elliott and Timbaland; and, it increasingly appears, the initially worrisome but surprisingly explosive teaming of Britney Spears with Max Martin and Dr. Luke just as their ubiquity risked becoming a liability.


The only thing that compares to the power and expertise that make Premier League collaborations like Pink and Martin so major is the electric rush that results when a pair of hot newcomers spark lightning. Lady Gaga and RedOne are the most recent and supreme example, just as Elliott and Timbaland, Beyoncé & Rich Harrison ("Crazy in Love"), and Max Martin & Britney Spears were in their brilliant, game-changing early days. Even without single-handedly changing the course of music, this is the magic that made Kimberly Cole's massively underappreciated debut album Bad Girls Club a surprise gem, crafted Cee Lo Green's The Lady Killer into a bonafide critical smash, and now has brought about Alex Gaudino and Kelly Rowland's intoxicating new dance track, "What A Feeling."

Gaudino, an Italian DJ, had his first big European hit with the mashup "Destination Calabria," and his song "I'm In Love (I Wanna Do It)" topped the Dance Airplay chart late last year. Rowland has had sputtering, minor successes as a solo act since her days in the blockbuster girl group Destiny's Child, In the last year her occasional, entirely unexpected dabblings into dance music have been far more exciting than her chart performance might suggest, and while every indication from the numerous official and leaked tracks that have surfaced is that something brilliant could be afoot, her long-awaited next album remains as yet unannounced nor given a title or release date (about that...while we're young, please?).

Rowland first dipped her toe into the dance pool on "When Love Takes Over," a single off David Guetta's big album One Love that despite the shortcomings in her performance (I find it ultimately too shouty to bear, and it is a poor representation of Rowland's considerable vocal skills, which I'd even say rival Beyoncé's) it was a hit, in part because Rowland's out-of-character genre switch was such an intriguing surprise in itself. She later justified her unlikely dance cred with the sharper, more polished "Commander," another Guetta production but this time credited to Rowland as the primary artist. The single's awkward music video, however, exemplified the lingering issue of a singer who had mastered the technique but still was not yet fully at home in the genre.


On "What a Feeling," Kelly Rowland, Dance Artist finally clicks. It's a performance with the studious technicality she'd exhibited on "Commander" but also the feeling and emotional connection she hadn't. As a result, everything that made "Commander' cold and assertive makes "What A Feeling" invigorating and exhilarating. The difference is hard to explain but easy to hear: there's a certain connection with the song, the style, and the genre itself that hasn't been there in Rowland's earlier dance tracks. It's not the change that's noticeable, it's that for the first time you don't notice any signs of any fish out of water in the vicinity.

Unlike Rihanna's recent collaboration with Guetta, though, the high points of "What A Feeling" represent equal contributions of singer and producer. For every great Rowland moment - the way she nails the ascending scale of "looove" that leads into each chorus, the great lyric "it's like my favorite star I used to stare at every night came down from the sky," and the "ooh" in fifth-step harmony that follows - Gaudino scores points of his own: the perfect way he brings in the beat halfway through each verse, the bridge that manages to build the momentum even as it provides the requisite moment of rest before the big finish, and a chorus that lives up to the production strength in the verses (this is something RedOne has never quite managed with Gaga and others: his verses are often killer, but his choruses, usually overstuffed messes as if in a misguided attempt to outdo the verses with untidy noise, never hit as they should).

The dance music scene is not populated by celebrity star producers or DJs like pop and hip-hop (Guetta, Benny Benassi and other bigger names tend to be crossover successes rather than genre giants), which is why dance enjoys much the same underground freedom as indie music, despite being more sonically related to pop. Gaudino may well choose to remain in the more insular and anonymous dance scene, where individual glory and chart hits have less importance than collaborative experimentation. The crossover delight of "What A Feeling" suggests that should he desire instead to pursue the Guetta path, he is certainly equipped with sufficient talent to pull it off as well.

As for Kelly Rowland, the naggling frustration and uncertainty with her album efforts might perhaps be assuaged by the increasingly valid possibility that we might have in Rowland the next Robyn or Nicki Minaj, so adept as guest artists that their mere presence on a tune all but guarantees greatness. After all, if anyone understands and appreciates the true artistry and importance of the supporting role, it's Kelly Rowland.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March Madness Breakup Bracket Day 6: Jewel vs. Sheryl Crow; Beyoncé vs. Alicia Keys

Vertigo Shtick has collected 64 of the best breakup pop tunes from the last decade or so to battle it out March Madness-style in a reader's choice tournament of getting over it!


Our first pair of the day is of the mellower variety than most of the other contenders here, starting with Jewel's iconic portrait of fresh heartbreak, "You Were Meant For Me" (I've chosen her more mature, less frog-like single re-recording), followed by the always somehow upbeat Sheryl Crow and "My Favorite Mistake."



Things get a little spicier in the second match, where Sasha Fierce taunts a commitment-phobic ex who's all up in her black and white spandex grill in "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" and Alicia Keys smolders her way through a great R&B cover of "How Come You Don't Call Me" (she leaves off Prince's original "Anymore").

Listen to the songs in each matchup below, and vote for your favorite for whatever reason you might think up! Readers will have 72 hours to log votes for these pairings. You're encouraged to use the comments to sway voters one way or another!

Jewel - "You Were Meant For Me"

Sheryl Crow - "My Favorite Mistake"

Which Breakup Song Do You Prefer?




Beyoncé - "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)"

Alicia Keys - "How Come You Don't Call Me"

Which of These Breakups Songs Do You Prefer?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March Madness Breakup Bracket Day 5: Justin Timberlake vs. Rihanna; Robyn vs. Nicole Scherzinger

Vertigo Shtick has collected 64 of the best breakup pop tunes from the last decade or so to battle it out March Madness-style in a reader's choice tournament of getting over it!


It's Day 5, which means we're on the first pair of matches from the South Bracket! And the winds in the west are particularly feisty today, starting with the opening showdown between Justin Timberlake's scathing sendoff to a certain fellow pop superstar (and reportedly less than faithful ex-flame), "Cry Me a River," and Rihanna's ribald, attire-burning delight "Breakin' Dishes," which was originally planned as the eighth (yes, EIGHTH) single released off her blockbuster third album Good Girl Gone Bad, but was ultimately passed over in favor of one of the new tracks on the Reloaded re-release, "Rehab..." which was written, produced and featured guest vocals by Mr. Justin Timberlake. Oh ma-ee-ah-uh-a-yun!


In our second meeting of the day, two excellent and drastically underrated singers who have yet to find significant appreciation outside the progressive pop music world of Western and Northern Europe battle for the overseas/hipster vote as Swedish goddess star Robyn's "Handle Me" meets former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger's "Don't Hold Your Breath." (By the way, the original lyrics to the former are "You're a selfish narcissistic psycho-freakin', boot-lickin', Nazi creep." In case you, like I, always wondered what was behind the garbled censorship on the US release.)

Listen to the songs in each matchup below, and vote for your favorite for whatever reason you might think up! Readers will have 72 hours to log votes for these pairings. You're encouraged to use the comments to sway voters one way or another!


Match One 
 Justin Timberlake - "Cry Me a River"
Rihanna - "Breakin' Dishes"

Which of Today's Songs Do You Prefer?




Match Two
Robyn - "Handle Me"

Nicole Scherzinger - "Don't Hold Your Breath"

Which Song Gets Your Vote?


Monday, March 21, 2011

March Madness Breakup Bracket Day 4: Britney Spears vs. Christina Aguilera; Kanye West vs. Toni Braxton

Vertigo Shtick has collected 64 of the best breakup pop tunes from the last decade or so to battle it out March Madness-style in a reader's choice tournament of getting over it!


Our first match of the day is a gem of random placement (seriously): Britney Spears' "Stronger" faces off against rival Christina Aguilera's "Fighter!"


In the other ring, Kanye West faces off against a badass Toni Braxton as "Heartless" meets "He Wasn't Man Enough."

Listen to the songs in each matchup below, and vote for your favorite for whatever reason you might think up! Readers will have 72 hours to log votes for these pairings. You're encouraged to use the comments to sway voters one way or another!

Match One

Britney Spears - "Stronger"

Christina Aguilera - "Fighter"

Which Song Do You Prefer?



Match Two

Kanye West - "Heartless"

Toni Braxton - "He Wasn't Man Enough"

Which of these Songs Do You Prefer?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March Madness Breakup Bracket Day 3: Kelly Clarkson vs. Kylie Minogue; Sade vs. TLC

Vertigo Shtick has collected 64 of the best breakup pop tunes from the last decade or so to battle it out March Madness-style in a reader's choice tournament of getting over it!


A pair of heavy hitters make up today's first battle. We have Kelly Clarkson's behemoth of breakup songs, the Dr. Luke/Max Martin smash "Since U Been Gone," while in the opposite corner Aussie diva Kylie Minogue tells a deadbeat dud to "Get Outta My Way" on the #1 dance chart hit from her 2010 album Aphrodite.


We're slowing it down in the other ring, starting with Sade's empowering comeback single "Solder of Love" from the group's 2010 album of the same name. Then we go all the way back to the height of the mid-'90s R&B revival with the ladies of TLC dealing with unfaithful beaus in (rationalized) kind in "Creep."

Listen to the songs in each matchup below, and vote for your favorite for whatever reason you might think up! Readers will have 72 hours to log votes for these pairings. You're encouraged to use the comments to sway voters one way or another!

Matchup One

Kelly Clarkson - "Since U Been Gone"

Kylie Minogue - "Get Outta My Way"

Which Breakup Song Do You Prefer ?


Matchup Two

Sade - "Soldier of Love"

TLC - "Creep"

Which of These Breakup Songs Do You Prefer?


.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March Madness Breakup Bracket Day 2: Pink vs. The Pussycat Dolls; Blu Cantrell vs. The Black Eyed Peas

Vertigo Shtick has collected 64 of the best breakup pop tunes from the last decade or so to battle it out March Madness-style in a reader's choice tournament of getting over it!


Today's first match is between a pair of kiss-off songs from 2008. Pink's "So What," the lead single from her excellent breakup album Funhouse, faces off against one of the best tracks by the Pussycat Dolls, "Whatcha Think About That," the Missy Elliott-featuring "Urban Club Mix" of which greatly improved on the original album track but didn't get much airplay as a single, which is a shame (not something Pink had to worry about in the least).



For our second pairing we go back in time a ways with a couple gems from the turn of the (21st) century. First up is the great 2001 one-hit wonder by Blu Cantrell, "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)," which faces off with "Shut Up," the 2002 song for which the Black Eyed Peas brought in former Wild Orchid singer Stacy Ferguson to sing the female vocal - and the gig went so well that Fergie became a full-time Pea at the invitation of Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine.

Listen to the songs in each matchup below, and vote for your favorite for whatever reason you might think up! Readers will have 72 hours to log votes for these pairings. You're encouraged to use the comments to sway voters one way or another!


Matchup One

Pink - "So What"                                                                  

The Pussycat Dolls feat. Missy Elliott - 
"Whatcha Think About That" (Urban Club Mix)

 

Which of these Breakup Songs Do You Prefer?


Matchup Two

Blu Cantrell - "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)"
The Black Eyed Peas - "Shut Up"

Which of the Breakup Songs Do You Prefer?



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March Madness Breakup Bracket Day 1: Jazmine Sullivan vs. Beyoncé; Justin Timberlake vs. Kelly Rowland

Vertigo Shtick has collected 64 of the best breakup pop tunes from the last decade or so to battle it out March Madness-style in a reader's choice tournament of getting over it!


Our first match pits two angry divas (one less destructive than the other) head toead as Jazmine Sullivan's great Grammy-nominated hit "Bust Your Windows" faces Beyoncé's instructions to pack up and move on out to the left, to the left in "Irreplaceable."


Matchup number two features a pair of bitter exes (not to one another...yet) spitting it back into the face of a lover that done wrong. Justin Timberlake's reminder that "What Goes Around...Comes Around" takes on Kelly Rowland's gem of a sleeper single "Rose Colored Glasses."

Listen to the songs in each matchup below, and vote for your favorite for whatever reason you might think up! Readers will have 72 hours to log votes for these pairings. You're encouraged to use the comments to sway voters one way or another!


Matchup One

                   

Which Breakup Song Do You Prefer ?





Matchup Two

                 

Which Breakup Song Do You Prefer?

Vertigo Shtick March Madness: The Big Bad Breakup Songs Bracket Game!

Art imitates life. We're all agreed on that truism, right? Art also imitates art, sometimes more than others, as seen with recent Gaga! Madonna! J.Lo! Lambada! Rihanna! David LaChapelle! Glee! Glee! Glee! Glee! (etc.) drama, just as life imitates life (compare the non-music biz stories of Britney Spears 2005-09 and Christina Aguilera 2010-present...oh and Whitney Houston c. late 1990s-2010(?) and Mariah Carey 2001-05) and life, in its way, imitates art (see "The Rachel," the eerie prophecy of Britney Spears' 2005 song "Mona Lisa").

Chicken or fish?
This is all really just my little advance loophole/disclaimer at the front end of a fun new event for the blog inspired by an idea for which I can't claim absolute credit...after all, art imitates art. You may know I occasionally contribute to Cover Me, arguably the top cover songs blog on the web; this year the blog has launched a fun, reader's choice bracket of Beatles covers to coincide with the fabled NCAA March Madness tournament now underway (it's been named "Moptop Madness." Isn't that droll and funny the way "The Beatles" is a droll and funny band name?). It's a fun series that's great for discovering new music, reader participation, debate, and good old-fashioned indie/hipster music snobbery (my two contributions to the bracket were wiped out in the opening round), and as a blog still very much in a buildup phase in terms of readership, I thought something along the same lines might be a fun way to get folks involved and interested in something other than basketball or pointless office pools.

But what to use for a theme? Ah, here's where art imitates life. Have you ever experienced the unique joy of the breakup of a lengthy relationship (especially one not by your choice)? Well, I've recently joined the well-populated club, and while it's not so much fun being a new member, it's been comforting to realize how many people, including many of the artists I so admire, have also earned membership at some point or another. The bonus of admiring so many recording artists is the blessed tendency of said artists, in times of heartbreak and/or end of relationship-related disarray, to SING about it. And that makes us all feel better in the end, really, somehow or another, though different tactics work for different people at different times (it's entirely reasonable to shift from rage to mourning to empowerment to drunkenness and back in the span of a day...or a conversation) but what can't be denied is that nothing seems to cure the blues like singing a little blues.

So, I have assembled 64 of the best pop tunes of the last decade and change that deal with the murky swamp that begins the moment the relationship ends, and not a moment sooner (what good does that do?). There are some iconic songs of anger and frustration, others sassy sendoffs to someone deserving to remain in the past; some simple mourning, and a few more optimistic declarations of moving on. For the most part, the bracket placement is the random product of iTunes' shuffle function, with a mere couple of minor adjustments in the interest of keeping this interesting for the long haul. Each day I will post two new matchups, and readers will have 72 hours to log their votes for the one they prefer for whatever reason that might be whatsoever. Those with stronger opinions are encouraged to use the comments to sway voters in their preferred direction!

In the end, of 64 great breakup songs there will be one to wear the crown, and in the meanwhile you'll get a chance to listen or re-listen to several dozen great tunes that are bound to lift the spirit even for those experiencing the bliss of intentional single life or the presently uncomplicated romantic pairing (or grouping...we don't judge here). Plus, if all goes to plan, your humble author will emerge from this project having successfully weathered the dismal storm of a breakup's immediate aftermath, and ready to strut fiercely through the rain while dancing suggestively with metal chair a la Ms. Spears.

Gather round, grab the Grappa, and start the cleansing ritual: it's March Madness here on Vertigo Shtick, so let The Big Bad Breakup Bracket tournament begin! Follow @vertigo_shtick on Twitter or the Vertigo Shtick Facebook page to keep up with the new matchups that will be posted each day, since voting only remains open for 72 hours on each one!

See the full brackets below (click to enlarge)!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Single Review: Britney Spears - "Till the World Ends"

By Vertigo Shtick Contributor Kurt Bitter

I was originally afraid for Femme Fatale-era Britney Spears, but that has now all changed. Upon first hearing that Dr. Luke would be co-producing much of Spears’s seventh studio album my body began to enter this strange state consisting of alternating convulsions and uncontrollable sobbing. I’d imagined that the much-awaited (third) comeback of the legendary Miss Britney Spears would amount to no more than a re-working of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream or Ke$has Cannibal or some dreadful hybrid of the two. After all, Dr. Luke was responsible for most-if-not-all of the production for both albums, and while they’ve both enjoyed commercial success, are generally “good” or maybe “great”, and definitely fit the persona of their respective pop starlets, the reigning Queen of Pop (yes, the crown was passed to her via salivary diffusion on August 28, 2003 - see photo at bottom - and will remain with her until a similar transmission occurs SoHelpMeJesus) deserves much more than the creative remnants of one pop star’s sophomore album or a somewhat-grungy newcomer’s debut.


It was as if pop’s King Midas of Sweden himself, Max Martin, had received the rather strongly-worded telepathic messages I’d been sending to him and had decided, or convinced someone with the proper authority to decide, to release “Hold It Against Me” as the lead single from Femme Fatale. To put it simply and bluntly, "Hold It Against Me" is effing amazing and a sheer pop triumph. As the creator of this blog put it, “it’s as if Britney took a step back, looked at all the pop music that had been released in the past two years and said, ‘okay, this is all very good. But this is how you do it.’” 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lady Gaga - "Born This Way," Postmodernism, Madonna, Hitchcock, Vertigo, and Other Thoughts

Lady Gaga is probably the definition of a pop music postmodernist. True, postmodernist theory and philosophy hasn't exactly been applied to pop music in any definitive sense (yet...I'll get on that), but if we scroll down a list of some general postmodern attributes every one of them smacks of Gaga:

Lady Gaga Postmodernism Pop Vertigo
Chase you down until you love me...

First Look: Nicole Scherzinger - "Killer Love" (Album Preview)

Not being a news source by definition, I still get a thrill when luck, timing and circumstance allows me to break a new story, or at least be among those doing so. It's even more fun when a post or opinion or suggestion proves prescient - the jokes about future-seeing abilities and/or some unlikely power that must have played a role are fun, especially because of that little part deep down that totally believes it. Well, all I know is that on February 25 I posted a meaty essay on the merits and circumstances of Nicole Scherzinger's valiant efforts toward a successful solo career despite a decade of obstacles even Dante might find impressive, and POOF! Within a week we get an album title, release date, cover art, track list, and even a seven-plus minute preview with clips from all fourteen tracks.


Seriously, they just appeared suddenly as if crafted using a mix of ink and magic wand; no forewarning, just "oh yeah, by the way, my album (which I've actually been working on in some form for, like, half a decade now, yeah, the first try got shelved so this is kind of a big effing deal) drops in two weeks, and it's called Killer Love, oh and here's the full tracklist and look here's the album cover, and look I know you apparently didn't like what I came up with a few years ago unless it was billed as the Pussycat Dolls which by the way was all me you know but anyway that's in the past now and this time I have good producers and two actual hit singles even though they've only come out in England but you know what I'll take it so yeah we also put together snippets of all the songs this time just like Britney Spears except all at once because we're a little behind schedule so have a listen, and there's all that for you, see you in a couple weeks!" It's not entirely dissimilar to a weekend last October when I posted an article musing over the potential next steps of Ke$ha's career, and the very next day - POOF! She announces a reissue of her debut with a new EP and a few days later drops what turns out to be a HUGE single. Perhaps I should get to work on getting things going for Richgirl, and Kelly Rowland...

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