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.

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