Monday, January 30, 2012

2011 Grammy Guide: Best Pop Solo Performance

As the 54th Annual Grammy Awards approach, Vertigo Shtick will be taking a look at the nominees for some of the 78 statuettes that will be awarded at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on February 12, 2012. Check back daily for previews of the pop, dance, r&b, rap, and general awards, as well as some of the more interesting standalone categories, and wow (or annoy) everyone at your viewing party with your dazzling Grammy knowledge!

Best Pop Solo Performance

This category replaces three different awards given in previous years: Best Female Pop Vocal, Male Pop Vocal, and Pop Instrumental Performance. The award is given to and based on the performance of the lead artist, not on songwriting, production or mixing. (Info)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why I Hate the Grammy Awards and Why That's Pointless (A Rant)

I have increasingly complicated attitude toward the Grammy Awards that might best be described as "opposition tempered by occupational necessity." You might say that the Grammy Awards are to me as the MTV Video Music Awards are to Kanye West: both of us have had to travel the same road from idealistic outrage ("Imma let you finish...") to pragmatic tolerance (Best Album snubs with Best Song compensatory nods) before, ideally, on ultimately to savvy game playing/puppeteering (Grammy nods for "live" versions in years you've released no new material). At least that's the hope, for both of us. Incredible the ways in which we develop connections with our celebrities, isn't it?

A Proud Moment in the War Against Bullshit

Friday, January 27, 2012

First Listen: Mason Black - "Jack the Ripper"

Don't read anything into this, but though I receive an encouraging amount of unsolicited music these days (excellent! How established of me), I believe this is the first time that an artist has contacted me, sent me his music, and entertained me enough to merit a post like the one that follows. Huzzah!*

Listen Up: Meg Myers - "Adelaide"

Pop fans first met Meg Myers in mid-2011 on Doctor Rosen Rosen's EP Girls, Vol. 1, (#2 on our 10 Best Pop EPs of 2011) on which she performs the self-consciously melodramatic "Poison." If you liked that (and you really ought to have), you'll love the news that we're about to hear a bunch more from Myers and her intrepid producer.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

So-So Feeling: Flo Rida, Copy, and the Weaknesses of the Pop-Techno Breakdown

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

I have been write about Flo Rida. For months now. Really.

Yo ho
Every time I sit in front of this computer, though, my mind goes blank. It's like the literary gods are saying “No way, Techno School. You are not ready to write this piece. Not yet.” Even now, I have to exert incredible effort just to remain focused on my own text. But I will not give up! This is too important! The zeal with which radio stations are overplaying Flo Rida's “Good Feeling” is starting to die out (or am I finally just sick of hearing it and keep switching the station?) signals the beginning of an exit from the radio mainstream of this song. Therefore! I will make haste and write about this song before it becomes last year's news. You can thank me later.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Censor Sensibility: The Scourge of the Radio Edit

As I hope I have made exhaustively clear, I am not into censorship. You will not find censored music on Vertigo Shtick in any of its forms unless it is there to prove a point, and that means no "clean" or "radio edits," no matter how official.

Today, some of the major internet information companies are blocking out all or portions of their websites to protest and raise awareness of two bills currently before Congress - the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House - which if passed would essentially allow for censorship of the World Wide Web. This, of course, would be very bad in countless ways and then countless more and countless more beyond that. Before you read any further, please make sure you've signed Google's petition and have contacted your members of Congress to tell them they'd better not fuck this shit up like they've been doing everything else lately, courtesy of Wikipedia, who may be unavailable for 24 hours (believe me, I have been feeling the pain like a chainsaw wound) but will still look up your House representative and your two Senators and link you right to their "Contact" pages. Unless you live in Washington, DC. Or Puerto Rico. Or anywhere else in the world besides the 50 United States - which doesn't mean you're off the hook, you know! All the web companies that mean anything are based in the States, so if the United States censors the internet, you're all DOOOOOOMED. No Wikipedia. No Tumblr. No Facebook as we know it. No YouTube.

Monday, January 9, 2012

First Listen: Neon Hitch - "Fuck U Betta" (Uncensored)

Since the exhilarating Neon Hitch unleashed her latest in a series of Things That Land Ridiculously Near Perfection, "F*ck U Betta," I've been holding out for a version without the asterisk. It's a good song, produced by partner in crime Benny Blanco* (the guy who mixed Maroon 5, dubstep and Christina Aguilera on "Moves Like Jagger," made Britney's "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" awesome enough to withstand Sabi's "steamin' like a pot full of vegetables" calamity, and produced Gym Class Heroes' "Ass Back Home," which features Hitch) and though the whole "trading up" theme has been used by everyone from the Pussycat Dolls to the Dixie Chicks, Hitch once again stands out by taking the concept to its extreme. But come on...this is a woman whose last official single was framed on a bestiality metaphor - I'm pretty sure Neon Hitch doesn't "f*ck."

Top 10 Pop EPs of 2011

Year-end "Best Of..." lists are fun, but they can get monotonous, especially with music journalism - how many times do you really need to see Adele's mopey portrait anyway? Then there are the "Faces to Watch" lists, which can be helpful but usually might as well be called "Lists of Artists I Know About Before You (Neener-Neener)," and how many times do you really need to see Lana Del Rey's mopey portrait anyway? To be fair, I gave a go with the prognostication thing last year, highlighting two artists I was sure would come through with brilliant performances: they were Kelly Rowland and Nicole Scherzinger. That's rough on my credit rating.

Instead, this year I'm covering the best in a field that is typically overlooked in the whole year-end list-making frenzy: pop music EPs. The EP, or extended play, is a kind of mini-album, usually three to eight tracks or so, often used by new and emerging artists to preview their work or minor artists looking to build buzz for upcoming projects. That means that while the ten EPs on this list contain music released in 2011 (which means you can listen and judge for yourself, something I feel is important), most of these artists are looking at further releases over the coming year or so. So it is a preview of faces to watch, of sorts, as well as a year-end Top 10 list. That's efficiency for you. (Hear highlights from these EPs in a Spotify playlist: Top 10 Pop EPs of 2011 – Selections)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Femmes Fatales: Britney, Gaga and Pop in 2011

By Kurt Bitter, Vertigo Shtick Contributing Writer 

We all agree that 2011 was a fantastic year for pop music. Commercially, pop dominated the market. Examining Billboard’s year-end charts shows that the vast majority of the year’s top Hot 100, Radio, and Digital Songs could be considered pop, with hip hop, country, dance and rock tracks comprising the minority. 2011 also saw a large number of pop artists embark on nation- or world-wide tours, with many announcing second and sometimes third legs across the country. 

We Found Pop in a Techno Place - 2011 in Review

By Techno School, Vertigo Shtick contributor and dance/electronic correspondent 
It's always funny to see where you find yourself on December 31. This time last year I was visiting friends on the East Coast, waiting to get back to LA and praying with all my might that 2011 would serve me as well as the latter half of 2010 had. For the first time in a long time, things were looking up, like I'd finally turned a corner that I'd been searching for over the past decade. I wanted things to stay just as they were; you couldn't have paid me to move out of California. And just look at what happened. There's snow falling outside my apartment's window right now. Ain't no snow falling in LA: that I know for a fact.

Techno/pop crossover Diplo

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Coco Morier - EP (Album Review)

Folks who have given a listen to any or all of Britney Spears' more recent albums may have noticed a preponderance of album tracks that are interesting and often quite good. This is unusual in the pop era, where albums by singles artists like Spears generally contain a few smash hits, a handful of backup/would-be singles, and some tissue paper - filler, we call it, which is essentially a nicer word for "crap." But certainly since her fourth album In The Zone, the crap has all but left the building (with a few exceptions, all of them on Circus). In its place are tunes written not by studio formulists but by talented and intriguing writers, often performers of indie-pop, rock, R&B, or electronica in their own right. These writers aren't called in just to pen a quick and easy hit (although some, like Bonnie McKee, Keri Hilson, and the legendary Cathy Dennis, are skilled in both arenas) - they're called in to give Spears something interesting worth her, and our, time.

One of these is Nicole Morier, whose songs include "Heaven on Earth" (Blackout), "How I Roll," "Trip to Your Heart" (Femme Fatale), and "Whiplash," the tune co-written with Spears that ended up as one of the many highlights of Selena Gomez and the Scene's excellent album When the Sun Goes Down. Morier has performed with the band Electrocute, and now she's released a stellar solo EP (as Coco Morier) that not only shows why she succeeds for Britney Spears but how her work with Spears has helped make Morier into indie-pop dynamite.

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