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.

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