Sunday, December 30, 2012

Popologist Panel: Kylie Minogue, Kelly Clarkson, Daley, Ellie Goulding, Jessie J, and more

December was a month of movement. No, literally, I moved back to Los Angeles. It's been a heck of a month, and only three of my fellow panelists were able to join me, and I have to say their work has been done for weeks and it was I who needed to catch up. But as Meryl Streep-as-Julia Child says, "never apologize" when you're creating, so I'll just head right into this, the final list of selections from the year 2012. We have two retrospectives of different kinds of the careers of two of the biggest stars of our time, Kylie Minogue and Kelly Clarkson, as well as variously successful collaborations between controversial artists from and Britney Spears to Diane Warren and Jessie J. There are the latest works from two R&B/pop vets, Ciara and Ne-Yo, picks from the sophomore outings of Ellie Goulding and Shoshana Bean, and pieces from two stunning newcomers: pop singer Brittany McDonald and soul vocalist Daley.

As always, there's a good crop of new stuff here you may or may not have heard, so we hope you'll check out anything here you think might interest you. For an extra bit of fun, each panelist has selected one of this month's selections as his or her "Top Pick." What's yours? Enjoy, share and please send your thoughts, whether you think we're right on or full of shit. We're very likely both.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

You Can (And Should) Stream Ke$ha's New Album 'Warrior' Right Now for Free

Sure, 2012 has been pretty much a bust for pop music. However - and I can't be alone in this - I've been holding onto one last strand of hope, namely that the artist to whom I have (mostly) un-ironically referred on this blog as the Messiah of pop music (I know, it's embarrassingly hyperbolic and, in this blogging climate, almost cliche) might pull off a last-second save and take this dismal year from a gut-wrenching shutout to...well, a moderately close loss. Initial reports from the Ke$ha front haven't been disastrous, but I'd be lying like Ashlee Simpson alleging a case of acid reflux if I said I've been whole-heartedly impressed and encouraged thus far with the impending sophomore LP Warrior. Still, every time I doubt Ke$ha, she bitch-slaps me with a plastic cup of Jack Daniel's while urinating on me and making wild animal calls with her other hand until I regret my lapse in faith and vow never to underestimate her again, and I dislike being covered in piss - even famous, mostly alcoholic piss.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Irony Explained in Eight Easy Music Videos

Another day, another rage-baiting anti-postmodernist culture think piece featured in some major publication (in this case, the New York Times) written by an author who clearly doesn't understand the concept to begin with; it's definitely nice to know who is getting paid for his writing while I continue to search for employment. Today's contestant involves the tricky concept of "irony," in this case used interchangeably with anything "hipster," which itself, to quote music critic Maura Johnston, ultimately seems to denote any "person whose cultural choices make [the author] feel like I'm not the target demo." Basically it's a big hifalutin piece by a professor of French at Princeton University saying "Irony is bad because I don't understand it and this is yet another reason you should continue to not hire these unemployed Millennials" and so forth... ugh, it's gross, whatever.

There are plenty of stellar intellectuals out there in the writing corps who I'm confident will provide thorough rebuttal to this editorial flashpoint-du-jour, and I'm happy to let them work their magic. What I will provide is a crash course cheat sheet on irony demonstrated in music video form. If you're all going to be arguing about irony all day, you ought to make sure you know what the word actually means.

Don'tcha think?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Popologist Panel: Brandy, Icona Pop, Lana Del Rey, Solange, Taylor Swift and More

Maybe it was the election we just lived through here in the States (for which reason the panel was bumped this month by one week), or maybe it's the approaching finales of The Voice and The X Factor (UK and US!), or perhaps I'm not the only one who's sick to death of this godforsaken year and counting impatiently down to the next. Or maybe it's just that winter is approaching and the sun acting like it wants to start seeing other people but it wants us to bring it up. But whatever the reason, it's gotten pretty damn shady around here at the Popologist Panel this month, and after a particularly friendly outing last month our panelists all seem to have the snark turned up a bit higher than usual. That might be trouble (trouble, trouble, trouble) for some of the releases and artists featured this month, including buzzed-about newcomers Icona Pop and Meg Myers; European BMOCs MIKA, Labrinth, and Madeon; veteran R&B hitmakers Brandy and Blu Cantrell and up-and-coming indie-R&B explorer Solange; and two of the most polarizing young players in the game: chronically surprised sales behemoth Taylor Swift, and the controversial-by-design chanteuse known as Lana Del Rey.

With the knives out and our full panel together for the first time since summer, it's a hell of a fun read for you this month, and we hope you enjoy and encourage you to add your thoughts in the comments, where we will continue the arguments as needed. Oh, as you'll see, several panelists had trouble shutting up about one selection in particular, so forgive the passionate lengthiness where it occurs.  As always, there's a good crop of new stuff here you may or may not have heard, so we hope you'll check out anything here you think might interest you. For an extra bit of fun, each panelist has selected one of this month's selections as his or her "Top Pick." What's yours? Enjoy, share and please send your thoughts, whether you think we're right on or full of shit. We're very likely both.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ten Britney-Related Reasons to Vote for Barack Obama

Today is Election Day here in the United States. Wait, had you heard there was an election coming up? A few people might have mentioned it, or there were a couple ads on television, maybe you missed them. In any event, by 8pm tonight most American citizens have the right to drop by a local polling place and cast a ballot in the latest race for President of the United States, among other federal, state and local races and initiatives. If you live in California you can help decide the fate of the death penalty, while if you live in Los Angeles County, you can vote on whether pornographic performers should be legally required to wear condoms from here on out! (Priorities.) Isn't democracy exciting?

Well, four years ago democracy was exciting. In 2012, democracy is, frankly, a little terrifying. In 2008 we were choosing between this awesome black guy and this not as awesome but still pretty harmless old war vet with a phenomenally entertaining psychopath Alaskan hockey mom for a running mate who looked a lot like Tina Fey and whose teenage daughter was knocked up and would eventually almost win Dancing With the Stars while Kathy Griffin faux-manced her baby daddy-turned-dreadful Playgirl model and we all laughed and laughed. In 2012 our choices are that same awesome black guy, whose awesomeness has, for some, waned in light of his decent-but-not-phenomenal four years so far in office, and on the other side, a not-exactly-universally beloved former governor of Massacusetts whose political views, as displayed over the past year and a half, are about as clear as Anne Heche's sexual preference. Oh, and he has a conservative psycopath for a running mate who really really doesn't like poor people (or women, immigrants, gays, etc.). And he fronts a party that has increasingly gone off the rails over the past decade and would probably be hilarious in its ludicrousness if it weren't so powerful and taken so seriously by so alarmingly many people.

Britney Spears has said some silly things in her time about politics, although (wisely) she hasn't said a whole lot on the subject, but I think we can agree that Britney 2012 is a proven beacon of wisdom far beyond the reach of any comprehension. Therefore, on a day and regarding a subject that has been written on and discussed as nauseum from nearly every angle imaginable, I thought I'd offer my take on this very important if drastically talked to death topic in what I hope is a new and unique way worth a small spot in the digital literature of the 2012 presidential election.

Because at the end of the day, it all really just comes back to Britney, doesn't it?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Popjustice £20 Music Prize: A Guide to the 2012 Shortlist

Every year since 2003, a panel of judges bestow the Popjustice £20 Music Prize to the artist behind the best British pop single of the year. The debate takes place in a pub in London on the same night as the Mercury Prize, which pompously purports to honor the best album of the year from the UK and Ireland. It’s not unlike the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, except that the UK already has one of those in the BRIT Awards; the Mercury Prize is really more like the Golden Globes of the UK music awards circuit: just another group of music snobs whose opinion matters because it comes with £20,000 and a heck of a jump in album sales. Popjustice’s £20 Music Prize is the Razzie Award, except instead of honoring the worst (see, we do that enough ourselves on the charts) the award goes to the best of an overlooked genre. The last time a pop album won the Mercury Prize was… ha, fooled you! A pop album has never won the Mercury Prize, come on.

The 2012 Mercury Prize will be handed out this evening in London, which means that, at the same time, 55 pop lovers will be meeting in a pub elsewhere in London to decide the winner of the 2012 Popjustice £20 Music Prize from the twelve meritorious singles below. Last year I offered readers a user-friendly guide to the 2011 shortlist, and it went so well I decided to do it again. Be sure to tune in tonight on Twitter (@vertigo_shtick) because I will hopefully be live-tweeting my second-hand coverage of the event, which is always irreverent, maddening, and exciting as hell.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Popologist Panel: Pink, No Doubt, Anjulie, Missy Elliott, and More

The operating philosophy of this month's Popologist Panel is "better late than never." Although it arrives two weeks behind schedule, this month our panel tackles some of its most fascinating and thought-provoking releases to date, despite somewhat depleted ranks as three of our panelists had the month off. Luckily we were able to bring in a new panelist to fill some of the gaps, and we like him so much we're going to keep him. Our subjects for October again include comeback works by several seasoned veterans, namely P!nk, No Doubt, Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott herself; while we also discuss new music from returning artists that often diverts from his or her previous work or style, among them Anjulie, deadmau5, and Natalia Kills; finally, we look at the introductory EP from buzzed-about British artist Charli xcx and toss in our two cents on the current phenomenon of the zeitgeist - a Korean rap-pop video that's taken the world, well, by the reins. 

There's a good crop of new stuff here you may or may not have heard, so we hope you'll check out anything here you think might interest you. For an extra bit of fun, each panelist has selected one of this month's selections as his or her "Top Pick." What's yours? Enjoy, share and please send your thoughts, whether you think we're right on or full of shit. We're very likely both.

The Ten Best Moments of "Gangnam Style" - A Photoessay

Wait, I know what you're thinking: "Oh hey, a post about PSY's viral hit 'Gangnam Style!' How new and exciting! I've been looking all over for something about that video on the web but just can't seem to find anything!" and so forth (you sarcastic bastard). Like the now globally recognized Korean rapper behind the current song/video of the zeitgeist (sorry, Carly Rae...we'll call you, maybe), I am entirely self-aware of the relative seriousness and import of the pieces I put up here at Vertigo Shtick, and like, um, let's say Lady Gaga because you know she'll appreciate the conversation being brought around to her circuitously, I am not above serving up the occasional fun and inconsequential fluff piece now and then when I get drunk in my tour bus or I've been away for a few seconds and some other bitch is about to release a single/album/major announcement. *Vomits*

In any event, I gathered these stills from PSY's fabulous video while prepping for an upcoming piece and I couldn't pick just the one I needed and let the rest languish in the digital trash can - and *poof* a post is born, commemorating the ten best moments and images from a video jam-packed with good stuff (in order of appearance). Heyyyyyyyyyy sexy laday!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Songwriting Case Study: Perfecting P!nk's "Walk of Shame"

Have you ever misheard a song lyric only to discover that the actual lyric isn't as good as the one you thought you heard?

I can think of a couple small examples: Britney Spears, "Trouble For Me" - "Sweet talk, here we go/Tell me something credible" (it's "tell me. Sounds incredible."); Rihanna, "Only Girl (In the World)" - "Hold me like a pillar" (it's "pillow"). Plus of course there's always "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy" or those awesome yet imagined "Renegades of Fuck" (was that just me?). You get the idea.

Usually this happens with a song that's already good - at least good enough to sing along to - and the accidental potential improvement merely a minor adjustment. Since part of the purpose of artistic criticism is the notion of the form's future improvement (since, obviously, the specific objects of criticism tend to be in their final form before we blowhards weigh in), it seems a worthy endeavor to put thoughts of this nature into print now and then, using a recent work as a case study wherein, the argument holds, a few certain tweaks might have made a good thing closer to great. Praise and constructive criticism all in one! Winners all! *The crowd roars*

Today's contestant is an album track from P!nk's recent album The Truth About Love, entitled "Walk of Shame," written by P!nk and Greg Kurstin, who also produced. First, let's have a listen, shall we (plus lyrics...those will be helpful)?

Monday, September 17, 2012

How "Lights"-Obsessed Top 40 Radio is Marketing "Anything Could Happen"

In case you're wondering how mainstream radio might deal with Ellie Goulding's seeming U-turn from the synthy pop of US hit single "Lights" to the alt-rock plodding of new single "Anything Could Happen," I have one answer for you. You may remember "Lights," the very 2010-sounding electropop song from UK singer's 2010 debut album that hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August and is currently #1 on the Radio Songs chart. You also may have heard that "Anything Could Happen" is of a bit different a breed (I believe I referred to "Pat Benatar '80s rock wailing"). And radio doesn't like things that are different. But they do like Ellie Goulding.

So...torn, right? 

Friday, September 14, 2012

New Music That Doesn't Suck - September 2012

Once again I've acquired some new music over the last month or two that's not terribly objectionable, and my mother taught me to share. Here's a sampling, and there's a Spotify playlist at the bottom.

Video Still
Kat Deluna gets high.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Popologist Panel: Elle Varner, Alanis Morissette, Neon Hitch, Mariah Carey (...we think)

August is traditionally a slow news month. It's no exception in pop music, which had a rough month: Carly Rae Jepsen, after a Ke$ha-esque reign atop the Hot 100, was deposed by Flo Rida's "Whistle," but the following week he was replaced by Taylor Swift after she broke Ke$ha's digital sales week record with "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," a song on which Swift pretends that she is Ke$ha. Then after two weeks, Swift was overthrown by the all time digital sales week record holder, none other than Flo Rida again (whose record-setting single features a hook sung by Ke$ha). It what Techno School says true: is everyone really trying to be Ke$ha? Or is it like the way one mistakenly thinks he sees an absent lover nearly everywhere he goes? Ke$ha came up eight separate times in last month's panel; let's see how the new crop does. We've got new albums by rock legend Alanis Morissette, R&B newcomer Elle Varner, and Britney Spears songwriter Coco Morier; two bombastic music videos by Nicki Minaj and Jessie and the Toy Boys; and new singles from artists new(ish) (Neon Hitch, Carly Rae Jepsen, Example) to not-so-new (Mariah Carey...we think).

There's a good crop of new stuff here you may or may not have heard, so we hope you'll check out anything here you think might interest you. For an extra bit of fun, each panelist has selected one of this month's selections as his or her "Top Pick." What's yours? Enjoy, share and please send your thoughts, whether you think we're right on or full of shit. We're very likely both.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Deconstructing "1991" - Azealia Banks' Autobiographical Homage to the 90s

Azealia Banks has been the buzz of the hip hop world following the release of her thrilling single "212" last December and a star-making US debut performance at this year's Coachella music festival, and now she has millions watching to see what she'll do when she makes her official full-length debut. This debut keeps getting pushed further and further, though fortunately we did get an official EP, 1991, in May (read Popologist Panel reviews), and a mixtape, Fantasea, in July, to tide us over as she hammers it out at Interscope. Included on 1991 alongside "212" were the previously released "Liquorice;" "Van Vogue," with its lengthy, stinging diatribe outro; and the sleek, elegant "1991," whose classic house beat and old-school R&B flavorings evoked some of the great music from the 90s you don't hear much these days. Videos for "Liquorice" and "Van Vogue," both directed by fashion photographer Rankin, were released over summer, but it was a bit of a surprise when Banks debuted the music video for "1991" over Labor Day weekend, since the track doesn't receive as much attention as its more bombastic siblings.

"1991," appropriately, is a compendium of references to 1990s-era pop, R&B and dance videos; Banks tweeted to fans that she was "channeling Madonna, Crystal Waters, and Aaliyah" in the clip. The references aren't just playing off a trendy aesthetic, though: there's a great deal of meaning packed into this seemingly breezy affair. Not an expert on early 90s hip-house, R&B music videos, and pop aesthetics? Never fear; I'll lay it down for you. Read on for a closer look at the references Azealia Banks and director Justin Mitchell have drawn on for their sleek, glamorous, and very clever homage to some of the artists and visual and musical styles that have had an influence on the young Harlem rapper whose potential, at this point, is as fascinating as her already impressive early work thus far.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Listen Up Everyone: Missy Elliott Dropping Two Comeback Singles on Monday, World Braces for Impact

Listen up, everyone! We have been just informed that Missy Elliott is debuting not one but two new singles next week from her long-awaited comeback album.

You have five seconds to catch your breath. 5...4...3...2...1...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gone Commercial: TV Ads and Music Discovery

Though by now it has probably all but subsided for most of the 40 million plus who tuned in from the USA alone, Olympics withdrawal is no joke. But the comedown from the high of this biannual fortnight of nationalist revivalism, heroics, bratty silver medalists, nationally variable broadcasting atrocities, and impassioned if amnesiac debates on the legitimacy of mysterious events like rhythmic gymnastics, curling, and dressage takes different forms for different folks. Those for who,m television is a major life engagement must adjust from athletic drama to scripted, "reality," or 24 hour news cycle drama, while others gradually reacquaint themselves with life beyond the boob tube, whatever that might be. For the latter, the short term difficulties of their more drastic transition are mitigated by one significant long-term benefit: no more COMMERCIALS! As one of this group, I can certainly feel the positive effects of the poison leaving my system: no more spoiled Lexus drivers seeking exotic vacation locales where they can stay in their beloved cars; no more promos for clearly doomed NBC shows (Animal Practice, Stars Earn Stripes); no more of Jeff Probst posing as self-important life coach; no more car salesmen somehow managing to make Grease songs even more intolerable; no more of that awful Wendy's spokesgirl and her damn Baconator. Winners all around.

Now, like spiders or Jersey Shore, commercials aren't entirely a bane on the world's existence. In terms of the music business, which generally makes little direct use of television advertising, commercials can do some good and almost never harm; for musicians, tv ads when harnessed properly can offer considerable rewards with virtually no risk. Rarely has this been done more successfully than this year's placement of "We Are Young," by the new alternative band fun., in a Chevrolet commercial aired during the Super Bowl. The single shot to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained there for six weeks, and has sold over five million downloads. The enormous impact of the placement (significantly eclipsing the sales benefit of Madonna's massive halftime show) is of course an exceptional case, but even if on a far less monumental scale, numerous other acts have enjoyed boosts from tv ad exposure beyond the primary benefit of licensing fees.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

First Listen: Brandy - "Wildest Dreams"

I think nowadays people tend to forget just how influential Brandy has been since dropping her 1994 debut album (which contains one of my favorite R&B songs of all time, "Baby"). A major part of this is the same thing that affects all popular musicians in most genres - if you're a performer, once you hit your 30s shit gets really difficult, and few artists manage to survive at all much less remain successful. With her upcoming sixth studio album, Two Eleven, Brandy hopes a return to her roots and commitment to making traditional R&B work with a modern sound will mark a comeback from a five-year period of personal and professional struggles. Her new single, "Wildest Dreams," makes a strong case.

Brandy's particular struggles over the past five or six years are hardly exceptional - I can't think of anyone in their thirties on the front-of-camera end of the pop music business (with the possible exception of Ryan Seacrest) who hasn't had to contend with some inimical manner of fuckery in order to continue on their chosen career path. She was involved in a fatal car crash, then an album (2008's Human) that suffered from a new label and set of collaborators who phoned in sub-par work, and a subsequent split from both management and label; she was fired from an ABC series after it was picked up; perhaps most horrifying, despite being a favorite on season 11 of Dancing with the Stars, she ultimately lost to Bristol Palin. Ouch.

Monday, August 20, 2012

First Listen: Ellie Goulding - "Anything Could Happen"

One pleasant consequence of the kind of late-breaking success that came upon UK singer Ellie Goulding here in the US is sometimes it means the peak of your popularity coincides with the commencement of your next project. Typically the purpose of a lead single is to achieve two main goals: first, to remind the public who you are and why they like you (or why they should like you more this time), and second, to provide some idea as to what the new album is going to be, musically, thematically, stylistically, or whatever. Well, in the US at least, Goulding doesn't really need to worry so much about the first one, seeing as her surprise US hit single "Lights," from her 2010(!) debut album of the same name, currently sits at its probable peak of #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is all over mainstream radio. And it's probably just as well, because to those of us who know Goulding through "Lights" alone would find little to remind us in "Anything Could Happen," the lead single from her upcoming sophomore album Halcyon.

"Anything Could Happen," released on both sides of the pond today, is a stomping mid-tempo march ostensibly about a breakup (Goulding, who is currently attached to techno upstart and Grammy-sweeping dubstep poster boy Skrillex, has said of the album, "I didn't set out to write a break-up record but I think it became one"), but could relate equally to, say, that time in your life when you realize you don't have to keep people around forever if you don't want to. Goulding's raspy, distinctive vocals might surprise "Lights"-only familiars but those more experienced with the singer won't find that to be a new revelation; what is somewhat unexpected is the Goulding abandons her generally more demure tone for some rather Pat Benatar '80s rock wailing to drive home money shot lyrics like "Baby, I'll give you everything you need, but I don't think I need you."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Not Sorry: The Fucking Heroism of Madonna

There are many people from whom I've taken inspiration of some sort, but there are very few I would call "hero." Madonna is one of those few.

It's not her status as a nearly godlike cultural icon, nor her fashion sense nor her stubborn, monumental success nor her role in defining modern pop music, though I greatly admire all these achievements. Madonna is a hero to me because she is arguably the only major entertainment celebrity (with the exception of Mae West) who has truly and unhesitatingly fought for the right to absolute sexual freedom, without exception, without shame, and without apology, in both her art and her life in general. Madonna has labored to show that it is possible to be both sexual and intelligent; sexual and successful; sexual and honest; sexual and mainstream; sexual and religious; sexual and artistic; sexual and female; sexual and loving; sexual and American; sexual and good; sexual and human. In a culture wherein nearly every societal construct is designed to discourage sexuality, Madonna has had the courage and the understanding to protest and to prove the point in her words and deeds, and in doing so she has had an enormous impact on my own life.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Popologist Panel (August): Frank Ocean, Pink, Madonna, Marina and the Diamonds

They say the third time's a charm. So for the third edition of the Popologist Panel, we have gone far and wide to tackle our most ambitious batch of new music yet. As always, we examine selections both large and small: on one end we discuss the comeback singles from pop icons Pink and No Doubt, as well as new work from indie darlings The Noisettes and Dragonette, recent UK successes (and frontwomen of imaginary bands) Marina and the Diamonds and Florence + the Machine, and from the Queen of Pop herself, Madonna. On the other end we take a look at the newest kids on the block: Cherrytree tadpoles Colette Carr and My Name is Kay, Australian DJ Havana Brown, and the undiscovered pop sensation and dancer extraordinaire Kimberly Cole teaming with an unlikely artistic partner, known to YouTube fans as Keith Apicary. Finally, we examine debut works by Frank Ocean and Luke Christopher, a pair of innovative, silver-tongued hip hop/R&B artists with prodigious and wide-ranging talents who look to challenge the norms, limits, and ultimately perceptions of genre.

There's a good crop of new stuff here you probably haven't heard, so we hope you'll check out anything here you think might interest you. As usual, there is not one piece on which we all agree; in fact, we seem to have a few more disagreements than last month! We also welcome our first guest panelist, who offers us a fresh look from a new perspective to keep us all in check. Enjoy, and please share your thoughts, whether you think we're right on or full of shit. We're very likely both.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

'Blow Me' Twice - Pink & Jeffree Star as Contrasting Pop Provocateurs

I'm not sure oral sex ever went out of style, but if it did it's currently enjoying a sort of - ahem - comeback in the pop music scene. A pair of pop provocateurs recently released fellatically (and almost identically) titled new singles whose shared nomenclature invites further comparisons that reveal much more than the basic which-one-is-better. Hearing Pink's newest single "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" alongside Jeffree Star's "Blow Me" exposes a significant difference between a skilled provocateur committed to his mission and a skilled provocateur who shirks it while still attempting to wear the uniform.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Ke$ha Project: The Best of Ke$ha Poll

The life of an ardent Ke$havangelist such as I am demands, of late, a great deal of faith and patience. One ultimately has to find things to do while one waits for the Messiah to unleash her next sermon on the mount. Occasionally I will eschew the urgent pop of the day to bask in the glory of Ke$ha's music, of which we fortunately have a great deal already to light our way, and as often happens when I'm listening to great music, today I got to thinking about the highlights of her short but remarkable published discography thus far, and how my opinions might differ from those of other Kesha Kongregants and non-believers. Twitter queries stirred up enough conversation to prompt me to move the questions here to the blog where they might find some real answers, and it's always a good time to add to The Ke$ha Project.

The Ke$ha Project

So, here is what I pose to all readers out there whom I ask to weigh in to help answer these tough but fascinating questions. As you make your selections, I encourage you to explain, debate or argue in the comments as we try to determine some semblance of an outcome by popular vote. I also encourage you to take the opportunity to go to your iPod or Spotify or YouTube and revisit the music mentioned herein, especially if you have yet to see the light on how brilliant this artist truly is.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Carly Rae Jepsen Immortalized in Sesame Street Sketch Starring Cookie Monster

Remember the beginning of Ke$ha's career when we were all thinking "Jeez, will this girl just go away already? Wait, play "TiK ToK again!" and then the song was featured in one of the better opening sequences of The Simpsons in recent years and we knew she'd be around forever? Well, history has a funny way of repeating itself, because Carly Rae Jepsen's inescapable "Call Me Maybe," the "TiK ToK" of 2012, has been spoofed in a Sesame Street sketch starring Cookie Monster (aka Cookie Rae Jepsen. I made that up), called "Share It Maybe."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

*Listen to This!* Erica Gibson - "I Don't Want You Back" (Single Review)

One of the nice things about pop music is that it's really easy to recognize when someone's gotten it right. There are folks out there who have mastered the form and can crank out hits ad nauseum - we know who they are. But every so often, a newcomer stumbles onto the formula out of nowhere - witness Josh Ramsay and Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," or Rock Mafia and Selena Gomez and the Scene's "Love You Like a Love Song." When this happens, and these songs become hits, radio folks always claim that all it takes is a fantastic song and they'll play it - no Bieber tweets/relationships or Disney boost required. I'm going to call your bluff, pop radio, because I've found a perfect pop single, truly from nowhere: "I Don't Want You Back," by the thoroughly unknown singer Erica Gibson. Let's hear it!

"I Don't Want You Back" doesn't just follow the ideal structural formula of a pop smash, although it does do that. Lots of songs can be perfect pop on paper - it is a formula, after all - but it takes a delivery and execution to provide the less tangible elements required of a great pop single to become a smash. First, it's got to have the right messenger, one with personality (but not too much), likability and an accessible universal quality to the voice so that everyone can sing along. Check: Gibson has the warmth and earnestness in her vocal to appeal to younger listeners, and clear intelligence and self-awareness (but not too much) to appeal to older or more
cynical ears.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Marina and the Diamonds - "How to Be a Heartbreaker" (Single Review)

There's no magic formula for chart success in the United States, as many a qualified singer has learned. There is, however, at least one basic truth about breaking onto the US pop charts, and with her new single "How to Be a Heartbreaker," Marina Diamandis of the fictional "band" Marina and the Diamonds seems to have finally figured it out. "Rule number one," she sings, coolly, "is that you gotta have fun."

Marina and the Diamonds - "How to Be a Heartbreaker" Review Electra Heart

 Marina has had a fraught relationship with "fun." On her debut album, The Family Jewels, she served a batch of largely well-written pop songs like an omelet made from eggs laid by hens in the coop she'd built in the backyard from toothpicks and superglue and cooked on a stove she powered by riding a bicycle backwards, dyed green, put sprinkles on top and a smiley face made of ketchup, and served on roller skates dressed as Bugs Bunny. So hard did she beat the music over the head with the "fun" sledgehammer (when she wasn't using the "avant-garde" mallet) that it didn't seem like she was really having any fun at all, and it was certainly exhausting to listen to, which is not to say it wasn't at all entertaining.

New Music That Doesn't Suck - July 2012

I've acquired some new music over the last month or two that's not terribly objectionable, and my mother taught me to share. Here's a sampling, and there's a Spotify playlist at the bottom.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Popologist Panel: Justin Bieber, Fiona Apple, Diplo, Katy Perry

It's the first Thursday of the month, which means it's time for a new edition of the Popologist Panel! This month we bring you our sophomore effort, after our exciting debut last month in which we discussed new music from Azealia Banks, Cher Lloyd, Kylie Minogue, Ke$ha, and more, and inadvertently moved a legion of Adam Lambert fans to take up arms against some of our more honest yet controversial thoughts on his album Trespassing. This month we're tackling a somewhat more eclectic batch of new work from the last month, ranging from pop superstar Justin Bieber's new album Believe to techno icon Diplo's much delayed EP to the return of "Mr. Saxobeat" chanteuse Alexandra Stan and the final video from Katy Perry and her Teenage Dream juggernaut; plus, before wrapping up we weigh in on the song of the zeitgeist, Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe."

There's a good crop of new stuff here you probably haven't heard, so we hope you'll check out anything here you think might interest you. As usual, there is not one piece on which we all agree; in fact, we seem to have a few more disagreements than last month! We also welcome our first guest panelist, who offers us a fresh look from a new perspective to keep us all in check. Enjoy, and please share your thoughts, whether you think we're right on or full of shit. We're very likely both.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Call Me Maybe" in Real-Life Application (or, "Hunky Nurse Man")

This toes the line between topical and personal (not to mention embarrassing) but ultimately I can justify it as a case study on how pop music permeates even the most basic human instinctive practices, in this case, the mating ritual. To set it up: there is a male nurse who works at the clinic at which I have weekly appointments who is rather attractive in that kind of "shall I remove my clothes?" a la Kylie Minogue's "Fever" kind of way.

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to win a series of shots that traditionally are administered in the rear, which is never pleasant, but, I learned, immensely more tolerable when the task is performed by the hot male nurse. In fact, by my third and final appointment with the needle, I actually balked at the female nurse who initially came in with some excuse about wanting to finish the journey together or some sort of bullshit, but it worked. I have never flirted as shamelessly as I did those next three minutes or so, and it was a total thrill, since while I'm sure there are activities at which I'm poorer than flirting I can't think of any off the top of my head. Since then, the five or ten seconds I get to see him each week have become something I look forward to.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Nothin' But the Reality Thing, Baby: An Interview with Erin Willett ("The Voice" )

The hit singing competition show The Voice, being on NBC after all, really has a thing for amping up contestants' hardship stories, much like its coverage of the Olympics. It's as if there's concern that the intensity of competition and the thrill of witnessing top artists demonstrate their skills aren't enough to keep viewers interested without the added drama of a little personal tragedy tossed in. Well, when it comes to that reality television dream combination of talent and gut-punching dramatic arc, they don't get much better than Erin Willett, the 23-year-old Maryland native with a big voice and fantastic screen presence who made it to the semifinals on the team of judge/coach Blake Shelton, losing out to the ultimate winner of the program, Jermaine Paul.

In the Blind Audition episode, we learned that Willett's father Chuck, who was a musician himself and who appeared in the episode, had been recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. In the episode in which Willett faced teammate and friend Gwen Sebastian in one of the toughest Battle Rounds, emotionally and talent-wise, Willett learned that her father was in his final days. After conferring with Shelton, who had also just lost his own father, she decided to remain on the show, and Shelton selected her to advance in a tearful, bittersweet decision at the end of the episode; the final credits began with a dedication to Chuck Willett, who had passed by the show's air date. Dry eyes were in short supply.

The Ke$ha Project - "I Taste Like a Cherry" (Unreleased - New Leak, Old Track)

As we all wait with bated breath for the second coming of Ke$ha, we do seem to be thrown our share of bones in the form of unreleased tracks old and new to tide us over and add to the already immense library of unreleased Ke$ha music available. After Dr. Luke proudly unleashed a thirty-second snippet of a song from the upcoming LP on Wednesday, today we get "I Taste Like a Cherry," an old unreleased track (from the pre-Animal days, almost certainly) as a little, well, cherry on top.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Popologist Panel: Adam Lambert, Azealia Banks, Ke$ha

My critical opinion is obviously par excellence, but so much of it is informed by the intelligent critical thinking done about pop music (yes, it does happen elsewhere, however rarely) by some of my peers and leaders in this largely online world of specifically mainstream pop music criticism and commentary. Sure, we have links on all our pages to the ones we deem worthy of esteem, but it's hard to get much more than a one-sided stance on any one blog or website (as stellar and educated as that stance may be). Where there's a problem vexing enough, though, Vertigo Shtick does tend to find solutions. Taking notes from (initially) The Singles Jukebox and, more immediately,'s fascinating by-the-sexes weekly recapping of the HBO series Girls, I have pulled together the best and brightest voices on the scene for this debut edition of a new monthly series, the Popologist Panel.

A panel of pop miscreants.
The members of this panel have been hand-selected because not only are they excellent, credible and reliable music writers, I believe that they, in fact, view pop with the kind of critical angle and import that Vertigo Shtick founds itself upon. More importantly, these are people whose opinions about music matter to me, not because I always agree with them, but because they are reasoned - and explained - sufficiently for the thoughtful, open-minded critical thinker to absorb, acknowledge, and ascertain a response. This first panel, which has come together far more splendidly than I'd hoped to imagine, provides perfect example: never do we all agree, nor do the same people always agree or disagree on any one topic or another. That's how you know people are thinking and listening, not just feeling. Feeling is a great and perfectly fine way to approach pop music - I highly recommend it - it just ought not to be distributed as expert critical insight.

For this month, I arbitrarily pulled together some of the last month's big releases as well as some interesting lesser-known releases about which I thought we'd have interesting things to say. This certainly isn't an exhaustive collection - however, I encourage you to visit the panelists' own blogs and websites because they do collectively cover a much vaster area of current pop music releases. I encourage comments, your thoughts on these selections or on our responses - feel free to call us out for bullshit or stake a new claim we've all left out on something. It sounds terribly hokey, but the final member of the panel, as it always is on Vertigo Shtick, is you, the reader, and we welcome your thoughts.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I have.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Voice UK: Season One Finale Recap

By James Phillips, Vertigo Shtick UK Correspondent

Last Saturday, Holiday Park singer Leanne Mitchell beat fellow singers Bo Bruce, Vince Kidd and Tyler James to win the first season of the UK installment of popular reality singing competition television show The Voice. Mitchell, who was mentored by Sir Tom Jones, won the show after being completely overpowered by teenage powerhouse Ruth Brown for weeks; however, when with Brown was voted out of the process in the semi-finals Leanne was finally given time to shine.

The Voice UK
Finalist Lady Catherine Anna Brudenell-Bruce (aka "Bo Bruce," God knows why)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

L2 - 'Limitless' (Single Review and Free Download)

Near the end of the film Chicago, Catherine Zeta-Jones covers up her torn hose and pleads to Renée Zellweger, "One jazz killer is nothing these days, but two...." In a scene saturated with female solo artists, maybe the Labbadia sisters, like the Nervo twins, are on to something. Melissa and Jessica make up the dance pop duo L2, although their roots go back to musical theater (both appeared in an award-winning Off-Broadway musical in 2009, Melissa in the lead), and their first two dance singles have breached the top 20 on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart, first "Boys or Girls" (#10; basically Katy Perry's "UR So Gay" set in a club) then "Insomnia" (#16), an earworm which was my first introduction to the pair. The latest single the sisters are promoting is "Limitless," a feel-good dance anthem that cleans up most of the rough edges of emerging artists' music and sets a solid ground for the engaging singers going ahead.

L2 - "Limitless"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

First Listen: Kylie Minogue - "Timebomb"

When British dance icon Luciana Caporaso unveiled her would-be solo debut album Pop My Trigger in December (licensing complications prevented an official release), one of the tracks, "Glitter and Gold," seemed to me like a perfect track for another legend of dance-pop, Kylie Minogue. Perhaps I wasn't too off the mark; Minogue's brand new single "Timebomb," officially released tomorrow in the UK and Australia in honor of the diva's upcoming 44th birthday, is a rich, throbbing number that sounds like it could have come from the pen of Luciana herself.

The Sexual Mystery & Mastery of Nadia Oh

Nadia Oh may be a tough nut for a lot of folks to crack, but it's clear that if anyone has Nadia Oh figured out, it's Nadia Oh. Fans, critics and foolish detractors have expended a great deal of energy grappling with this seeming anomaly of contemporary dance music (does she "get it?" is she mindless or brilliant? where the crap did this come from? does she even exist?). Meanwhile, Nadia Oh chuckles to herself and every so often unleashes a new musical creation upon the world that inevitably plays perfectly to the qualities that make her irresistible. Yet because the only one not at least somewhat baffled by Nadia Oh's appeal is Nadia Oh, she exercises her game instinctively, drawing no attention to the springs and gears because she already knows how it works and isn't trying to pull a fast one, at least not in this respect. Whether you consider that a product of cluelessness or unabashed natural expertise depends, I suppose, on how much of a sexist asshole you are, but see Nadia Oh has no more problem with sexist assholes than adoring EDM feminists - be it beats, balls or boobs, Nadia Oh simply has something for everybody.

Suck on it.
Frankly, the sooner one decides to abandon the quest for a foolproof, fully agreeable rationale for enjoying Nadia Oh and simply absorb the glorious noise she makes, the better. Not everything Nadia Oh has released is great; a chunk of it isn't even that good (most of this chunk precedes the masterpiece "Taking Over the Dancefloor," from her second album, Colours). But a lot of it is pretty fantastic, and over time a larger portion of her work has been of the "rather good" variety, as is customary with young artists progressively mastering more and more of their art. Oh's latest single, "Slapper (Ayye)," is the best thing she's released since the original demo for "No Bueno" (that the balls-out introductory moombahton melee was severed from the final album cut is simply criminal), and also (or perhaps because of it) the biggest departure from the pattern of work leading up to it. After the tropical, moombahton and dubstep explorations of Colours, "Slapper (Ayye)" is a bass-busting, hip-hop infused dance track that wouldn't be out of place on the first half of Nicki Minaj's latest album.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Coco Morier - "Ambulance" (Video Review)

It has been an active year for coco morier, the new indie-pop solo act by former Electrocute frontwoman/Britney Spears tunesmith Nicole Morier. After releasing her five-track, self-titled debut EP in December (and landing at #3 on this blog's groundbreaking Top Pop EPs of 2011 list), Morier began playing well-received regular shows in Los Angeles before joining Swedish indie royalty like Miike Snow, The Teddybears, and Lykke Li in a new collective and independent label, INGRID, in March. Her track "Afterlife" appeared on the label's inaugural compilation record, released on Record Store Day, and the superb single "Explosions" was featured as KCRW's "Today's Top Tune," among other commendations. Last week, Morier released a new music video for "Ambulance," one of several standout tracks from her debut, and announced her upcoming sophomore EP release, Strangers May Kiss, out June 19 on her new label, on which the track will also appear. Good news all around.

The video, directed by Evan Lane, is a relatively straight-forward yet thoughtfully artistic representation of the post-relationship depths of stubborn heartbreak the song depicts. The clip is almost entirely pro-grade, with moments of DIY amateurism that manage to make the whole affair more personal and heartfelt than your average glossy big-budget production - a standard for which independent musicians making music videos would do well to strive henceforth. See, for instance, the care taken to capture the beauty of a shower of sparks falling from a cigarette being stubbed out on a wall; also how Morier's silhouette still visibly shapes the lyrics of the song, a simple effect that was likely painstaking to create. Even the harried, blurry outstretched hands reaching for the medicine cabinet or refrigerator door convey not just the action but the unbalanced desperation of depression and sorrow that's long overstayed its welcome.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Ke$ha Project - "Microphone" (New Unreleased Track)

Those who, like me, have been underwhelmed by the pop music output during the year to date will be mollified to know that this has really been the calm before the storm. The great pop provocateur Ke$ha has reportedly been hard at work on her sophomore studio LP, after a successful tour and some time spent reconnecting with groovy animals across the world. Anyone who's paid real attention to Ke$ha's silently but enormously influential musical career will be awaiting the upcoming album with curious anticipation, as all accounts suggest that, for better or for worse, the singer plans to shake things up a bit rather than blithely follow and assimilate to the sound of today, for which she in fact is largely responsible.

Whether this will be a Justin Timberlakean revelation, a Gaga-esque mess of fitful brilliance, or an Alanis Morissette-ish jumping of the artistic shark remains to be seen. While some of the leaked tracks since the release of her debut, Animal, have clearly been born of post-Animal sessions (the hypnotic "31 Seconds Alone," the minimalist "Starvin'"), it's hard to tell if any of them can really be seen as indicative of the direction the new album will take. The recently leaked track "Pretty Lady," a punk rock tribute to drag queens descendent of Garbage's transgender admiration anthem "Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)," received plenty of publicity thanks to its fabulous subject matter, and it was also the first clear example of the 70s rock influence Ke$ha has suggested the album will center upon.

Yet another, far superior track emerged in full recently to no fanfare whatsoever; it almost seemed nobody noticed (I stumbled upon it by accident, as I had most of the singer's extensive pre-Animal library). It's a shame, because "Microphone" is the most interesting Ke$ha track since the genre-busting "Sleazy," off the Cannibal EP; if "Microphone" is indicative of the kind of pop styling to be found on the upcoming album, we're in for a treat indeed.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Extraordinary People: An Afternoon with Mathai ("The Voice")

On a recent mythologically sun-drenched Saturday afternoon I arrived at Paramount Recording Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard to meet with Mathai, the Indian-American former nursing student who reached the quarterfinals on the second season of NBC's The Voice. The studio entrance is unnervingly nondescript, and when I was directed to Studio G, I found myself temporarily lost in a gated parking lot with a few closed, unmarked doors, a smattering of cars, furniture, and boxes of equipment. Fortunately, behind one door I could hear the muffled but unmistakeable falsetto I'd grown so fond of since Mathai first appeared in the Blind Auditions, singing a sassy rendition of Adele's "Rumour Has It" that caused me to leap out of my seat.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Music That Doesn't Suck: April 2012 (Playlist)

It can be difficult sometimes to wade through the web and find good new music recommendations; I know that as much as anyone. On another point, I can't count the number of times I've stumbled upon good new music, or at least new music I enjoy to some extent or other, but never manage to fit it into a post to share the good news. In response to both those dilemmas, I thought I'd at least toss together a list of the new music I've enjoyed over the past month for your reference. Some of the music listed will be very familiar while some will likely not be, and it's all in a Spotify playlist for your convenience, with a few exceptions to which I will provide alternate links. This is music I acquired during the last month, which does not necessarily mean it was released in the last month - we all find music at our own pace! Hope you enjoy and maybe find something you like as well!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Voice: Season 2 Semifinals / Ranking the Top 8

While the first round of Live Shows on the second season of NBC's The Voice was entertaining and relatively light on drama, this and last week's quarterfinal round was both riveting and intense - and it was a killer piece of television. With the four teams free of moderate competitors and easy decisions, and with the ultimately useful last-minute instant elimination twist, every performance meant something, even if the reality was that most of them didn't.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Guess What, J.Lo & Pitbull Are Great, So STFU (An Appreciation)

For all the emphasis I place on artistic excellence, I can't deny the power and purpose of pop music to create joy. Ingenuity and skill in the craft and adeptness in performance and execution are standards to which this blog holds pop music as much as any other art form, but as Sheryl Crow once sang, "If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad." Few artists have brought me such consistent happiness in their work as Jennifer Lopez. If you asked me to list my favorite pop musicians I probably wouldn't think to include her, yet whenever I listen to her work I realize that pretty much everything she's done as a musician I've enjoyed. The most recent example is her new single "Dance Again," on which she reunites with the rapper Pitbull, another artist about whom I've always felt positively. (It's another feel-good dance-pop track, and what's not to like?) J.Lo gets a lot of shade about her singing in particular, and there seems to be plenty of grumbling about Pitbull at any given time, and I feel moved to step up and say guess what, J.Lo and Pitbull are great, so shut the fuck up.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Career Explosions: An Interview with Nicole Morier

Nicole Morier is one of my favorite pop songwriters working today. You've probably heard her songs if you listen to any Britney Spears albums of the recent era: her cuts include “Heaven on Earth” (with Freescha, from 2007's Blackout), “Rock Me In” and “Mmm Papi” (from 2009's Circus), “Trip to Your Heart” and “How I Roll” (from Femme Fatale, the latter of which was chosen by Rolling Stone as one of the best pop songs of 2011), as well as songs by Wynter Gordon, Selena Gomez and the Scene, Tom Jones, and Sky Ferreira. She was a member of the indie pop group Electrocute, and now records as the solo act coco morier (see Vertigo Shtick's review of the coco morier ep, which came in at #3 on the Top 10 Pop EPs of 2011 list).

We spoke in January about lyrical conundrums, writing for a solo project versus writing for other artists, and the hilarity that can ensue when critics and fans (and bloggers) get it wrong. Morier is a great conversationalist, and I didn't want to diminish her distinctive voice, so I've done my best to keep the transcription true to life.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"MDNA" - Madonna's Postmodernist Pop Project

Madonna is arguably the patron saint, if not the founder, of modern pop music. Without her, none of the pop music on the radio today would exist, and it's undeniable that her career has exemplified success in the music business, to a degree perhaps rivaled only by the Beatles. But the Beatles didn't last as long as Madonna has; in fact, it's hard to think of a comparably major musician who stuck around playing in the big leagues long enough to operate in a landscape molded so enormously on her own influence. As Madonna advances through her sixth decade, and, of course, because she is *gasp* a woman, pundits, public figures, and music critics -  most of them men - have circled the waters like sharks for well over a decade now, eager to speculate on and revel in the Queen of Pop's fall from the throne whenever she drops a new studio album. Though far from perfect, her latest LP MDNA is the 53-year-old performer's strongest argument in defense of her continued reign since 2000's Music, even if much of the argument is a bit more sophisticated than pop fans (and critics) are used to.

Madonna Postmodern Pop MDNA

The Voice: Season 2 Quarterfinals / Top 8 Contestants

It's been a busy two weeks for NBC's The Voice, which presented the first round of Live Shows (and Live Eliminations) spread across four remarkably entertaining episodes. Viewers were invited to vote using a plethora of methods for their favorites, and the three members of each team with the most votes were sent on to the quarterfinals. The other three got to sing for their salvation in the Live Elimination shows (note: this is how to make an elimination show, a necessity in our multi-time zone country, actually worth watching rather than a tribute to stalling tactics and advertising dollars) and one more singer, selected by his or her respective coach/judge, was allowed to advance as well.

This means we lost eight contestants, among them Vertigo Shtick Top 10-ers Naia Kete (#9), Kim Yarbrough (#3) and Charlotte Sometimes (#2), but all in all there is a solid group of 16 left who will compete this and next week in the quarterfinals.

And this time, there's a twist!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Manufactured Superstars: Paris Hilton & the Genius of "Drunk Text"

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

Any blogger's worst nightmare is a lengthy bout of Writer's Block, and I've had a serious case of it. The combination of lengthening work hours and increasing dependence on Boyfriend after breaking my wrist just, plain and simple, got to me. I wallowed in a sea of self-pity for a good six weeks. It put a strain on every factor of my life. And it took a jolt of techno—okay really two jolts—to bring me back to my normal state of Techno School badassery. First I forced myself to venture down to The Fillmore for the Deadmeat Tour, where for the first time I saw SoCal superstar Steve Aoki and dubstep debutante Datsik play live sets. Then, thank The Literary Gods, I received a divine text from my blogging bestie at Vertigo Shtick:

Can u write about the Paris Hilton Manufactured Superstars demo?

Um, yes.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

First Listen: Anjulie - "White Lights" (Preview)

Anjulie is a performer on a mission. The Canadian singer earned major indie pop cred with her 2008 single "Boom" (VS review) as well as the ultra-groovy "Big Things," featured in the movie Fame. Anjulie's indie fans were left scratching their heads when she returned last year with the dance-pop single "Brand New Bitch" (VS review), some wondering why such a unique artist would choose to go mainstream. However, as Anjulie explained in an interview with Vertigo Shtick last fall, the single was just the first look at what is to be a dance album with a particular purpose: namely, an effort to bring to dance music the sort of lyrical depth and meaning found in alternative music. She offered a peek at the concept on her second single, "Stand Behind the Music," which was more lyric-based and less dance-y; now the singer is previewing an upcoming third single, "White Lights," and it appears that this could be the one to bring Anjulie's vision fully to life.

Queen of Hearts - "Neon" & "A Moment in Love" (Single Review)

Along with Yasmin and Nadia Oh, the young pop singer known as Queen of Hearts is one of the most encouraging new talents currently coming out of the British Isles. Her debut EP The Arrival, featuring the preternaturally perfect "Shoot the Bullet" and the icy, intelligent "Freestyle," landed at #5 on Vertigo Shtick's Top 10 Pop EPs of 2011 list. The set was a skilled revival of the entrancing electronic dance-pop of mid-2000s Goldfrapp with enough variety to elevate it beyond mere retreading yet not so much as to make for a confused stylistic mess. Fortunately, the excellence of the debut set appears not to have been a fluke, judging from the pair of new tunes the artist has released in the early months of 2012. With "A Moment in Love" and the just-released "Neon," Queen of Hearts demonstrates considerable talent and skill within her craft, and confirms her status as an exciting new artist to watch.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Voice Live Elimination #1 Recap

On Tuesday, the first four contestants from the second season of NBC's The Voice were eliminated as the show entered its third segment, the "Live Shows." From here on out until the end of the season, contestants will compete not only for the vote of their respective coaches but for those of the viewing public, who are given the chance to weigh in using several possible methods.

It's raining men for Sera Hill.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Voice: Season 2 Recap / Top 10 Contestants

Despite my intentions, I missed most of the first season of The Voice, finally tuning in to the final two episodes and, while liking what I saw, essentially missing the entire concept of the show in practice. This season I've made a point to follow from beginning to end, and I've had a ball so far. I know that because even the best reality competition show loses its novelty and unpredictability after two or three seasons (except America's Next Top Model, which I could watch until the apocalypse) it's imperative to enjoy it while I can. Fortunately, The Voice is the kind of show that comes into its own the second time around (as opposed to American Idol or The Apprentice, which worked their best magic in their first seasons), so the timing is perfect.

But first let us take a moment to appreciate the utter greatness of Christina's hat.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

5 Britney Spears Hits Written for Other Artists (and 5 Songs Originally Written for Britney Spears)

What if Britney Spears had recorded "Milkshake?" How would pop be different had "Toxic" been released by Kylie Minogue? Can you imagine Janet Jackson performing "I'm A Slave 4 U" at the VMAs? Would Katy Perry have taken "Hold It Against Me" to the top as well? You might be surprised at how close we came to finding out.

Songs Written for and by Britney Spears

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