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HEAR THIS: Conchita Wurst's "Firestorm"

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I hope this 90's dance trend never wears out.

Last year's Eurovision winner/Current Drag Superstar Conchita Wurst recently dropped her debut solo album, Conchita, internationally and its filled with more than a few scorchers (pun intended). My favorite? Dancefloor ready "Firestorm" which girlfriend performed live at Saturday's Eurovision final. Ever since then, I haven't been able to get it out of my head.

For the love of all things holy, please include Conchita in next year's RuPaul's Drag Race. Please. Please.

FRESH OUT THE BOX: Little Boots, Sage The Gemini & Nick Jonas, American Authors, & Dream(!)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summertime Heaters are in full effect! Click the titles below to hear 'em...

AA's latest single sounds just enough like their breakthrough "Best Day Of My Life" mixed with BBQ-Country-Crossover to make it sound fun and fresh. Every Summer needs one of these jangly tunes and this one is uber singable.

Familiar pop sensibility mixed with the 90's nostalgia with some weird synth bleep-blurps thrown in for good measure. I'm down for the cause.

I've been a longtime fan of Ms. Nikki Flores and I'm proud to announce she has changed her name to the psyudonym Rayne and finally has a new EP in the works. She also confirmed she's been writing and recording in Sweden(!). "Just Rayne" is the first taste and I'm. So. Freakin'. Excited.

Everything Adam Levine & Co. touch turns to gold these days and their singles just get shinier and poppier as the days go by.

SAGE THE GEMINI - "Good Thing (feat. NICK JONAS)"
To offense to Sage (or as I know him, the current wooer of Jordin Sparks) but this smash is all thanks to hunky Nick J in all of his glory. Remember when Justin Timberlake sang a bunch of dancey hooks for a smattering of rappers? Nelly's "Work It" immediately comes to mind. Kudos to Nick for continuing to prove he really is the true heir apparent.

Handclappin' in the club! I'm so ready for new material from Little Boots and the saucy vocal delivery on "Better In The Morning" doesn't disappoint.

Nope, it's not new but recently all four original members reunited and sang a bunch of their tunes together a capella and they've been circulating the 'net, inevitably making me teary-eyed. It Was All A Dream was such a great album, wasn't it?

HEAR THIS: Little Mix is BACK with "Black Magic"

Monday, May 25, 2015

L to R: Leigh-Anne, Perrie, Jade, Jesy
Good things come to those who wait for it.

Despite the potentially cringe-worthy title of "Black Magic" and its cheese-tastic ripped-from-a-Delias-catalog cover art, Little Mix refuses to let me down when it comes to slaying your faves and re-asserting themselves as the current Queens of Girl Group Pop.

"Black Magic" was leaked last week and due to the positive reaction heard 'round the world, its release date was bumped up. If you're like me and living in the US, it's available for purchase/streaming right now. I know. When I heard the news, I had a mini heart attack, too.

(In true annoying British single release form, it's not out until July in the group's native UK. Tell me how that works in their favor exactly, all-knowing music industry execs?)

The song follows on the path of anthematic, girl power pop that made Little Mix who they are with "Wings" mixed with a brush of chanty, sing-along bits a la "Move" and "Salute". Basically, it's the idyllic first single from a project that I could have ever hoped for from these ladies. 

Effortlessly effervescent and light, "Black Magic" is the opposite of what the title would suggest. Leigh-Anne, Perrie, Jesy, & Jade are willing to spill their secrets on how to be irresistible to all the boys. It's....witchcraft! Just kidding -- it's actually "confidence". Tomatoes, to-mah-toes. It was also co-written by Camille Purcell, who co-wrote a few other LM jams in "Boy" and "Nothing Feels Like You". 

Nothing can truly scream summer the way sweet girl pop in its purest form can. Well done, ladies. Now let's get on with Album #3 and re-schedule that US tour you promised us!

EUROVISION 2015: SWEDEN WINS ALL (plus Mel's Faves)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

It's the end of May so you know what that's Eurovision Time!

For the Americans/folks who aren't as familiar, Eurovision is basically like a giant week-long reality show between countries across the globe. Each country selects a song and a singer to perform to represent their country. There are two semi-finals (already held this past week) and the final (being held today) to select the ultimate winner and winning country. 

Picture it like a reality show a la The Voice or American Idol (since so many of these performers actually come from these types of shows in their native countries) if every state had their own song and performer and then all fifty songs were showcased and the public voted on a winner. I would totally watch that show. Wouldn't you?

While I usually lean toward female voices, there was an onslaught of contestants this year that were female singing (somewhat boring) big ballad anthems about equality, peace, or loving yourself for who you are (the theme is Building Bridges -- it's like, we get it, already). This isn't too surprising considering Eurovision tends to lean heavily on whoever won the year previous -- in this case, Conchita Wurst's "Rise Like A Phoenix" (representing Austria, hence the fact that this year's competition is being held there). 

Yes, it was a great song but do I want to sit through hours of a similar type song? Nope. I'm here for the dance music. Luckily, lots of the fellas were able to help me out in that department. Read on to listen to and hear more about my favorites from this year. Click on the song titles to view the live performances from the semi-finals (as applicable).

LIVE UPDATE: It's official! SWEDEN wins in what was a close race between themselves and Russia!

1. Sweden
2. Russia
3. Italy
4. Belgium
5. Australia
6. Latvia
7. Estonia
8. Norway
9. Israel
10. Serbia

PLACED: #1 (365 points - a record-breaking # of points in Eurovision's 60 year history!)
Unsurprising that the native land of All Good Pop Music would gain my vote as my absolute fave this year, right? Hunky Mans is a bonafide popstar in his native Sweden following a run on Swedish Idol in 2005 and has released five albums with a sixth on the way. "Heroes" is the first single from that record, Perfectly Damaged, set to be released next week in Sweden. It was co-written by Anton Malmberg Hard af Segerstad who has also written for Le Kid, ex-Play member Janet Leon, Eric Saade, and even Fifth Harmony. It starts slow like a country-western ballad before building to a climactic dance jam, very akin to David Guetta's recent work. Plus - if Sweden wins, it means the competition will be back there next year. Sigh.

2015 marks the first time Australia is allowed to compete in Eurovision which has raised more than a little bit of ire by fans. I get the confusion since Australia is technically considered part of Oceania, but given it's ethnic ties to Europe and ardent love for Eurovision, it was included in this year's competition. Even if you don't agree with it (angry fans on Twitter), you should at least give props where it's due that Australia selected criminally underrated popstar Guy Sebastian as their representative. He's the primer winner of Australian Idol in 2003 and is a current judge at the Australian X-Factor. Oh, and he writes his own music and can sing his ass off. He's released seven albums (the latest: Madness in 2014 which included features by Sage the Gemini and 2 Chainz). "Tonight Again" has a slight funk feel to it and sounds a bit like a dancey Bruno Mars cut. 

PLACED: #11 (51 points)
While so many of the ladies go the safe feel-good ballad route, 20-year-old Nina choose epic performance art. She won Sarkartvelos Varskvlavi (the Georgian Idol) in 2013 and released her debut album last year. Her song "Warrior" is still very much a strong female anthem a la Kelly Clarkson and was co-written by Sublatti herself with Swede penman Thomas G:son (who also co-wrote Loreen's "Euphoria", the Eurovision winning song in 2012). Her incredible voice and Xena-meets-Evanescence look totally sets her apart.

PLACED: #9 (97 points)
"Golden Boy" is the perfect blend for Eurovision -- it's a mainstream pop song that still has lots of shades of cultural color. It also marks the first Israeli entry sung in English. I thoroughly enjoy it because it heavily reminds me of Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You" (shouldn't be too surprising -- Nadav actually auditioned to be Israel's representative by singing JT's "Mirrors" so the influence is obviously there). He's cute to boot! I initially wouldn't mind him "showing me Tel Aviv"...until I realized he's only 16 years old. Wow.

LOIC NOTTET - "Rhythm Inside" {BELGIUM}
PLACED: #4 (217 points)
Another teenage reality comp runner-up -- in this case 2014's The Voice Belgique. The song itself has a nice mixture of dancey bits and stark quiet which lends itself well to its intense, choreographed(!) performance. It's one of those that grows with you upon seeing its live production.

While I still maintain that Raylee's "Louder" should have snagged the Norway Nod at the Melodi Grand Prix, "A Monster Like Me" is quite captivating due to its simplicity and lyrical darkness. Morland fronted the British rock band Absent Elk, who saw some success in the UK and opened for Girls Aloud on the road.

IL VIVO - "Grande Amore" {ITALY}
PLACED: #3 (292 points)
OK, so I'm a sucker for handsome men who can sing opera and look good in suits. Il Vivo is a decorated Italian opera-pop trio who rose to fame in 2009 and have since signed a deal in the US(!) performing on a handful of television shows here and releasing their album Il Vivo as well. They range in age from 20-21.

Armenia's entry is interesting because it's made up of a "super-group" of people of Armenian descent who are from around the world to represent all continents, including American Tamar Kaprelian who saw some fame stateside for her 2009 song "New Day". I really love this concept and it's a beautiful song.

ANN SOPHIE - "Black Smoke" {GERMANY}
PLACED: Tied for last with 0 points (wow)
Ann Sophie is still a relative newbie in the German music market, releasing her debut album, Silver Into Gold, just last month. She joined the competition when another artist chosen to represent Germany dropped out. "Black Smoke" was co-written by British pop talent Ella Eyre

UZARI - "Time" (feat. MAIMUNA) {BELARUS}
PLACED: Cut during Semi-Finals
OK, so this one has already been cut from the final but I'm crying foul. This song is ridiculously catchy ("Time is like thunder, ah-ahhhhhh!") and sung well plus it includes live violin. I find it odd that previous Belarus songs -- including "Cheesecake" last year -- made it through while this didn't. Imagine it with a bit of a suped-up backbeat by Zedd and a feature by Lindsey Sterling and try to tell me this couldn't be a global dance phenom?

NOW #KPOPPING: SHINee's Back with a New "View"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

L to R: Onew, Key, Taemin, Jonghyun, Minho
Guys, I'm overwhelmed. So much good is happening all at once. The Eurovision final is on Saturday. Little Mix's ace new single leaked early and will be released early (post coming soon) and my favorite no-longer-underaged darlings in SHINee are back on the KPOP scene. FINALLY...(Minho Voice, say it with me) SHINee's Back!

It's been a year and a half since SHINee's last Korean release -- dancey "Everybody" back in 2013. Since then, they've released a fresh full length album in Japan (I'm Your Boy) and members Taemin and Jonghyun have both offered up solo EPs. But now they are back in five-piece choreography formation for a new summer jam and a new album.

The song is called "View" and if you were like me and were just waiting for a KPOP act to get this 90's dance groove thing right, wait no longer. SHINee is known for being trendy so this shouldn't have been too much of a surprise, albeit a pleasant one. Choreography was not forsaken, the tempo is good, all of them sound great, and its a grower in the best way. Oh, and my guy Jonghyun wrote the lyrics -- allegedly beating out over 20 other compositions for that bragging right.

"View" is the lead jam from their fourth official full length album, Odd, which I'm placing side by side to their transition breakthrough piece, Lucifer. The album is all over the map in terms of genres -- some of it works, some of it doesn't (at least not for the time being). It's the sheer force of energy that really solidifies it as a set and is yet another proof positive that SHINee isn't afraid to tweak and experiment. 

That being said, if you adored their super shiny (pun very much intended) earlier jams like "A.Mi.Go" or even arguably their best work with "Sherlock", you might feel a little underwhelmed. Odd is exactly that and doesn't try to be mainstream accessible. In much of the same way that I feel Big Bang works on an international level for being both a boy band as we come to know the term and something else entirely, SHINee seems to be reaching for a similar feel. Much of this album doesn't feel like a typical boy band album -- in fact, much of it doesn't even really feel like KPOP as I've come to know it to be. There is no straight-ahead pop jam like "Dream Girl" on this record. It's decidedly other and that's exciting because as I've said before -- SHINee can walk both paths. This something that few other KPOP groups can do and do well.

Like with Lucifer before it, I adore the lead single and a smattering of the rest of the material. When I first heard both albums, I was a bit perplexed. After a few spins, I found a handful of album cuts I really loved. In the case of Odd, these currently seem to be ethereal, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink "Trigger" and its polar opposite (which coincidentally appears adjacent in the track listing) "Farewell My Lover". The latter is an early 90's love-soaked R&B power ballad and might just be SHINee's elusive "Before U Go" moment (or at the very least a worthy followup to the under-promoted "Symptoms").

Basically, Odd is the album I wasn't expecting to get from SHINee and I'm happy about that. I'm also really excited to see these boys perform the hell out of this odd new material.

Given the fact that SHINee's Back and with a music video not set in a SM dungeon box to boot, it's definitely time to resurrect my patented...

For the Fangirls & Fanboys:
  • Is Minho really walking around a forest in a striped suit? And while we're on the subject of Minho, HOW GOOD DOES MINHO LOOK, GUYS? SHINee, you bewilder me. Every era, I find a different member attractive. This time round, it might be Minho. Who would have thought. Seriously though. Seriously.
  • That being said, Taemin still looks really good even with the strange hair. How does this child pull off any look regardless of how ridiculous it is? Also -- he's almost 22 now so I feel less weird about finding him attractive (but it still feels pretty weird, NGL).
  • SHINee being kidnapped by white girls right now? Should we call someone?
  • Also, anyone else surprised by the sheer amount of non-Asian girls being featured in (male) KPOP videos? I sure am. Is this how they avoid the expected onslaught of vitriol by fangirls? And on a related note, how can I be said non-Asian girl featured? Let me know in the comments, kthanks.
  • So much undressing in this video. My eyes. It's weird to see SHINee so...non-idol on a pedestal. I can't be the only one. You mean they are human men in their twenties?!? I know! I'm shocked, too!
  • A+ Jonghyun for your Guns & Roses T-shirt. And given that he likes rock music, I'm not judging him for wearing it. And in another shot he wears a Curtis Mayfield shirt! Man, I knew you were my "technical" bias for a reason. I promise I will try to adjust to this platinum blonde on you.
  • As expected, Key Key. But I give him bonus points for wearing a jersey that says "Girl Power" because yaaaass gurl.
  • For the first time in what feels like literally forever, let's all give a round of applause to the stylist for putting (let's call a spade a spade for this era) the hot 3/5's of SHINee into tank tops with the low-cut/large cutaway sleeves. 
  • Nerd Alert: the hipster cinematography here is pretty on fleek. (Kids, did I use that right?)
  • Wait, so Onew has a hot girl alone, she takes her top off, and he looks visibly uncomfortable? Oh Jinki, why? Furthermore, why do Onew and Minho get scandalous solo shots with girls and no one else does? Did the other three object because they have real life girlfriends(/boyfriends)? (Sorry, did I just get too real?)
  • Say it with me, the shirtless pool bit was way too short.

FRESH OUT THE BOX: Disclosure, Tori Kelly, Blonde, Elliphant, Kiesza, Grace Potter, & More

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The summer months always seems to bring better music. Maybe it's the weather but it's hard to not want to go out and dance the night away. Here are some of my current faves in the pop landscape. As always, click the titles to hear the song.
Dance's heavy-hitters are back with this saucy track.

A sparse, modern re-take on the dance classic by Robin S. This 90's revival is real and legit and I'm loving it.

Ditto to this jam. Vocalist Alex Newell is shaping up to be one to watch. He was a regular on Glee's later seasons as the transgendered character Unique and provided vocals for Clean Bandit's "Stronger". I'm getting the same kind of excited vibes as when I first discovered MNEK and that's a great thing. His debut album is due out on Atlantic Records soon.

Man, can this girl write a hook. Not only that, but there are times when Tori's lyrics hit so close to home how I felt growing up (and now) that it almost overwhelms me. It's not just for her perfect curly hair that makes wish Tori was my real life BFF. Looking for a fab, chill female popstar-in-the-making with self-written lyrics that are relatable and idyllic in terms of a modern day role model for young women? Look no further. "Who knows / Maybe I could sell out shows without my clothes? / God made me sexy and I don't care if only I know." Dear today's youth...

These boys swing from strength to strength. 

There are a few different bands named Phases but this LA-bred one sounds a bit like Scissor Sisters meets Roxette to me. They've released a handful of sparklers including their single "I'm In Love With My Life" but I like "Betty Blue" because it kinda sounds like Huey Lewis & the News' "The Power of Love" and Lady Gaga's "Swine" mashed up and repackaged as lite-pop fare. If that doesn't intrigue you, I don't know what will.

PopJustice referred to this being like the Rihanna 2015 single that the wanted but didn't get. Apropos. 

This song is from the upcoming Finding Neverland musical celebration album but don't let that deceive you if you're not a Broadway nerd like me (or for that matter, not a Peter Pan aficionado). It's glittery Disney Pop for sure but in the best way and still very much in Kiesza's 90's pop wheelhouse.

Carefully sandwiched somewhere between first album Charli XCX and second album Charli XCX, Bebe Rexha's debut EP has hit the ether and it's a good kind of grower. "Pray" is easily my favorite.

As the leader of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, she was kind of like a modern day Janis Joplin -- so if you're expecting alt-pop rock, please disembark from the bus now. Grace's solo album, dubbed Midnight, is due for release soon and if "Alive Tonight" is any indicator, it's much more pop leaning. I haven't been able to stop hitting the repeat on this one -- it's the perfect kind of summer anthem with a chorus that is super singable without forsaking her rock vocal roots. (But beware the inevitable whining of "selling out". Pshhh, Bye Felicia.)

It's already gained a few synch features and is quickly rising up the Hot 100. Newcomer Rachel Platten sounds a bit like a Taylor Swift/Sara Barielles/Megan & Liz fusion in the best way.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Happy #MusicMonday!

While I impatiently wait for
Little Mix to return to the pop marketplace, my other fave "current" UK gal group provide us with yet another smash.

Now signed to Operator Records in the UK, trio MO (or M.O) have already racked up quite a few bangers while still staying relatively under the radar even in their native UK. I'm talking about "Ain't Got Time", "For A Minute", "Hot", and "Wait Your Turn". They stayed firmly wedged on that line between lush harmonies and singable choruses, from funky R&B to pop perfection that Sugababes did so well in their heyday.

Their latest is "Preach" and it's everything I wanted it to be. It's a little bit 90's, a little bit island meets mainland, a little bit modern trap, the modern day TLC mass appeal hit we were waiting for.

But -- and it needs to be said -- as much as love the main original version, I utterly adore the Cahill Remix edit. Why? Because it gives me so much Mini Viva vibes. Basically, it makes DJs lives super easy because they would only need to put that edit on infinite repeat and people would still be out dancing on the floor. So c'mon, PREACH!

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: Lo-Fang Scorches at LePoissonRouge

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Do you enjoy talented, handsome men who can play multiple instruments? (That should be rhetorical but if you just said 'no' in your head, what's wrong with you?)

Lo-Fang has opened up for Lorde and has quickly creeped up on me, mostly thanks to the suggestion by my friend over at Music Is My King Size Bed. This past week, I finally saw the man live and the rumors are true -- he's an incredible live act and it's really incredible how he can breathe life into his under-appreciated Blue Film album on the stage.

Lo-Fang (real name: Matthew Hemerlein) literally built a musical masterpiece around his haunting vocals through a series of soundscapes and loops made of live performance on the cello, the guitar, and the violin (the latter getting me every time). Seeing these songs live deconstruction sheds new light on their recorded counterparts, in particular jams like "Look Away", "When We're Fire", and "Animal Urges".

And then there's the beast that is his beautiful, sultry cover of "You're The One That I Want" that was somewhat recently used in a Chanel ad. Sigh.

If you're unfamiliar, remedy this now. This is a genius musician at work. 


Saturday, May 16, 2015

We're living in a crazy time if you're a fan of the divas as I obviously am. Britney just released a single. Mariah and J.LO are doing Vegas shows. Mary J. dropped a UK-dance focused album that was incredible. And now...

Our Queen -- Janet. Ms. Jackson if you're Nasty -- is coming back. Not just for an album but for a tour, too.

Announcement from Janet Jackson on Vimeo.

Oh Sweet Queen of the Rhythm Nation, finally. FINALLY. It's been seven years since Discipline, fam.

And to be honest, now is an incredible time for a new Janet Jackson album. Can you imagine if we got something like this now in such a politically charged climate? Or what if we got something like this? Or like this since 90's is so hot? OR LIKE THIS? I might die. I literally might.

I'm overwhelmed with the possibilities. I'm so ready for this. SO READY.

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