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BEAUTY BREAK: Mel's Favorite Hair & Makeup Things

05 April 2014

Yep, this has finally materialized. It's something I've been talking about possibly doing for months but after the great feedback I've gotten when I suggested it on Twitter, everything is finally coming together. You'll notice my top link navigation has been altered a little bit to include a new post category for beauty. The majority of what I blog about will be products I like, the vast majority being of the K-Cosmetic type. You can click here now to read my prior posts. However, don't get it twisted -- this will first and foremost be a music blog.

If you ever have any questions or would like an opinion on a product, feel free to ask me on Twitter (@melismaticdiva) or in a comment.

Over the past few months, I have been repeatedly asked for my "favorite" items to recommend so below you'll find the products that I personally use most often and where you can find them for yourselves. Let me know YOUR favorite products in the comment section below!

imPRESS Press-On Manicure Nail Covers (avg. $7,
These little babies are the world's best kept secret in nail polish/manicures. Available in solids, shimmers, ombres, prints, you name it and they don't look fake at all! You simply fit them to your natural nail, pull of the tab on the back and press on. No glue, no hassle. They last for about a week (sometimes longer) and you don't have to worry about your mani chipping. They're easy to remove, just hold a cotton ball with nail polish remover around your nail bed for a few seconds and they pop right off. I'm a fan of the "Short Length" because it allows for easy typing and you won't believe how many people assume they are my natural nails or a gel manicure! I was introduced to them by the company itself during ComicCon last year and have yet to be disappointed. I wore them to the CMJ Festival last year and got a million compliments.

Ouidad Botanical Boost Moisture Infusing & Refreshing Spray ($18.99, Ricky's NYC)
It smells powder fresh (but not in a laundry kind of way) and is the only detangling spray I've ever tried that truly works like a charm on my coarse natural curls every time regardless of humidity/weather. It's also really great on "second day" hair. I'd recommend it for any and all curly hair types but I'm sure it works as a great detangler/refresher for any tangle-prone hair.

Miss Jessie's Quick Curls ($34.99, Ricky's NYC)
This is my go-to styling product for everyday. It's a creamy consistency that's a bit thicker than a normal lotion -- kind of sticky. But for as long as I rake it through my hair in sections, it'll leave my curls looking defined and relatively frizz free. I'm a huge fan of the entire Miss Jessie's line -- if you have any type of curly hair (from "wavy" curly to natural, kinky curly), they have something for you and the company has been expanding at a rapid rate. They are now available in Target as well as specialty stores. A little pricey but so worth it -- one big bottle lasts for months and I use it all the time.

Rickycare No-Crease Bow Clips ($5.99 for a pack of three, Ricky's NYC)
I use these in the morning to hold back my bangs while I put on moisturizer and makeup. These clips are easy to clip in/pull out of your hair without messing with your hair style or natural hair texture/curl pattern. They were created with a plastic coating so they don't leave a dent in your hair after viewing makeup artists backstage at fashion shows using tissue paper with bobby pins on their models for the same effect. Plus they are super cute.

Benefit Moisture Prep Toning Lotion ($30, Benefit)
I use this every morning after washing my face (and before my moisturizer) and also use it at night when I take all my makeup off. It helps soothe skin that's prone to redness (like mine is).

Lush Popcorn Lip Scrub ($9.95, Lush)
If you love wearing lipsticks, you need to invest in a great lip scrub -- especially now that winter is on its way out! They exfoliate off all the gross dead skin so that your lips are soft and lipstick application is smooth and even. My fave is this one from Lush. It has Jojoba Oil to keep your lips feeling smooth and a salty/sweet kind of taste to it (and yes, if you end up consuming some -- which happens -- it won't hurt you. It's all natural.). 

Korres Wild Rose 24-Hour Moisturizing & Brightening Cream ($35, Sephora)
My go-to absolute fave moisturizer ever! My skin is a combination of dry and normal but my cheeks and chin tend to get really red naturally without makeup. Rose Extract helps balance skin so it looks less inflamed and this cream not only acts as a moisturizer but primo skincare to relieve the redness. I've tried so many different things -- nothing works like this does!

Etude House Precious Mineral BB Cream Bright Fit SPF 30 ($15.90, Kollection K)
I bought it from and it remains to be my favorite K-Cosmetic purchase EVER. For awhile, I cut out foundation completely and only used this BB Cream. Unlike many of its American competitors, this offers amazing coverage balancing out my redness while still looking natural (and not cakey like many foundations). If you can get a hold of this in your shade, do it.

Benefit Boi-ing Industrial Strength Concealer ($20, Benefit)
The best concealer ever made. Its like you don't even have zits. Also great for undereyes.

Benefit Posietint Cheek Stain ($30, Benefit)
These little bottles are small (and kind of expensive) but they last for a really long time. Less is totally more with this; a pinch for both cheeks gives you a natural flush. Perfect for daywear.

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencil ($22, Ulta)
If you prefer pencil eyeliner, this one is the best. Smooth application and stays put all day. 

Maybelline Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner by EyeStudio ($7.99, Ulta)
These days, I've forgone pencil eyeliner for liquid eyeliner. My favorite for a long time was the Lorac Front of the Line Pro Liquid Eyeliner (which was $23 but was well worth it in my opinion). It had a tapered marker tip which made drawing a cateye easy-ish (and trust, I was and am quite challenged at this. Practice makes perfect.). I was looking for drugstore dupes so I wouldn't have to spend so much and tried the L'Oreal Infallible. Don't fall for that hype! The marker tip gets junked up easy and is then impossible to clean, so your lines always end up looking grey rather than black. I picked up the new Maybelline Master Precise and it is HEAVEN SENT. It's just like the Lorac one but better, because it's almost a third of the price. Easy to use, vibrant color, stays put all day long.

MALIN + GOETZ Mojito Lip Balm ($12, MALIN + GOETZ)
This thick lip balm smells like a margarita. Not enough of a selling point for you? It's ultra-moisturizing and I wear it to sleep. I wake up to super soft lips.

Revlon ColorBurst Matte Lip Balm (drugstores)
Another recent find that I adore. It's basically a big chubby stick pencil balm but definitely not sheer like a typical lip balm. This is full coverage lipstick-like color in a lightweight balm. My favorite is 'Shameless', a dark plum. I feel like Perrie from Little Mix when I wear it.

NYX Butter Gloss ($4.99, Ulta)
A great day (or night) gloss. The color is subtle but they are very moisturizing and stay put for a long time. Plus they all smell like delicious baked goods.

Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick ($22, Ulta)
Still my favorite lipstick I've ever tried, I own three different colors. Great color pay off, full coverage. Stays put a long time without reapplication and there's no need to worry about it migrating all over your face. All of the colors are gorgeous but I'd suggest one of the solids rather than the shimmers.

HEAR THIS: Simon Curtis & Wolfy/Ro Danishei are Wrathschild (Na Na)

31 March 2014

They've been friends for years and collaborators for just as long. But today marked the official debut bow of the co-ed duo pop group Wrathschild, the brainchild of pop's Lady & Gentleman in Waiting (aka Simon Curtis & Wolfy). 

The two indie powerhouses have officially joined forces for the Wrathschild project (cementing my statement that boy-girl duos are this music era's en vogue formation) and their debut single, "Fall Into Love", co-written by the pair and released independently, is now available for your perusal and purchase.

Soaring and sweeping with lots of 80's synth, "Fall Into Love" is the perfect melding of what makes both of these artists compelling -- chock full of hooks, quirky lyrics and a chorus sung in modest harmony. Once we arrive at the bridge, its like the sonic cresting of a lush hill of Serengeti. Think current sparkly Ellie Goulding mixed with the out-of-the-box quirk of Bastille. It's the next evolution of Simon and Wolfy, and its everything we could have hoped for.

My love for Simon Curtis and Ro Danishei (now performing under the pseudonym Wolfy) has long been documented on this blog -- and truthfully, much of the story of my fanship of both artists was intertwined and cohesive from the very beginning. Wolfy jumped onto my radar as the leader of underrated, pristine pop trio Candy Coated Chaos, while Simon was collating a sinfully large catalog of gems and sparklers fit only for a Pop Messiah on his own. The two officially first crossed paths six years ago with the recording of the naughty cCc "single" "Utopia", co-written by Curtis. A few months later and cCc was no more. Wolfy left her native East Coast in favor of Los Angeles and it was from here that the story of Simon + Wolfy truly began.

Simon dropped his debut album, 8 Bit Heart, for free via his website almost four years ago to the day and the set included "Brainwash", co-written by Wolfy. In January of 2011, Wolfy released her own solo debut set, End of the Rainbow, which not only included Simon (in costume) alongside her in the cover art but singing alongside her via the venomous "Michelle". It was here that the rebel yell chant of Wrathschild, Na Na!, made its grand entrance to the party. Another Simon collab, "Wicked Baby" (also featuring a Wrathschild call out), was included in the album's "repackage" that August. Meanwhile, Simon's sophomore solo set, R∆, dropped in June of 2011. A third set of Simon demos, dubbed WWW, was unveiled in the fall of 2013.

It was clear the Wrathschild project was brewing for years before the cat was let out of the bag. The group is stating the project was two years in the making (est. January 2012) and Simon stated the lead single, "Fall Into Love", was mastered in late January 2014. In an interview with Billboard, the group revealed they were working exclusively with producer Ray Reich sans label. A music video for "Fall Into Love" is slated for unveiling in April. 

"Fall Into Love" is available via all digital retailers including iTunes and Spotify now.

FRESH OUT THE BOX: Kylie Minogue, Karmin, Shakira, Rixton, Sia, Tove Lo, Chloe Howl & More...

26 March 2014

Perhaps a bi-weekly wrap-up of new releases would be a little more palpable and easier to stick to, eh? Anywho, here's some of what's worthy of your attention from the past three weeks.

To call this "new" would be an oversight; this single in its English counterpart was first released back in the late summer internationally. It's gone to #1 in the UK, Germany, New Zealand and more and is poised to do the same here in the States. The song initially didn't do much for me but for some reason, the Spanish re-recording has hit all the right notes. It's full of smarmy, swarthy horn honks and is a decided departure from DeRulo's trademarked cookie-cutter pop&B sound (which admittedly was turning stale rather quickly). I give him props for taking a risk. This one is a serious earworm -- once its got its hooks in you, beware.

CHLOE HOWL - "Rumour"
"I'm just tryna work out / These cards I've been dealt..."
Stumbling upon this teenage Brit soulstress is much akin to how I felt when I first stumbled upon La Roux a few years back. She's both familiar but refreshingly new at the same time. Her EP, also titled Rumour, is now available in the US. It has 80's electro bends to it (not unlike La Roux) but with an emotional edge -- Adele chopped, screwed and remixed in the dark discotheque.

KARMIN - "Drifter"
"Guess as long as I'm a drifter / Hope I wind up on your shore..."
The Quirky Pop Duo's sophomore set has finally dropped yesterday in Pulses and its a mismatch of the expected and unexpected. They've matured a bit beyond relying on the oddity of Amy's rap-talk posturing but the vocal emergence of Nick (the other, until now "background" half of Karmin) is very prevalent which alters the identity of the act markedly. "Drifter" feels like a safe single bet with dup-steppy drops and a sweepy dance-radio sound. 

CHER LLOYD - "Sirens"
"I carry the weight of you..."
I have high hopes for Cher's upcoming sophomore album (if we ever get to hear it -- her label is certainly dragging their feet). If you fell under the complaint heading that this era's lead single, "I Wish", sounded too much like previous singles, "Sirens" will shut you right up. A P!NK-esque heavy ballad is not what I was expecting -- or really what I even initially wanted -- from an artist like Cher but it works in her favor and in this case, it works well.

"We could call it fleeting / We could could call it, we could call it / Le Love / Les Sex..."

Kiss Me Once is here!! If you don't already have your copy, I'll be complete honest when I say what the hell is wrong with you? The set is primo and totally lives up to the stellar hype its predecessor, Aphrodite, set up for it. Only one song truly falls flat for me and surprisingly, its the Pharrell written "I Was Gonna Cancel" (probably should of....anyone? No?). The rest is pure saucy pop goodness. My current fave is the not-very-subtle, slightly robotic "Les Sex". "Sexercize", "If Only", "Feels So Good" and "Million Miles" all come in a very close second though. Overall, this set ranks very high in my overall faves of the Kylie almost three decade long discography.

Mø - "Waste of Time"
"Say the words..."
Danish pop singer-songwriter Mø (real name: Karen Marie ølstead) comes out guns blazing for her debut set, No Mythologies To Follow, spawning a number of worthy singles (another great one, "XXX 88", has Diplo onboard). If you're a fan of this rising tide of dark pop, I definitely recommend it. She sounds a bit like if Lorde and Florence + The Machine had a Danish baby. Fun Fact: "Mø" is Danish for "virginal". Hmmm...

RIXTON - "Me And My Broken Heart"
"All I need's a little love in my life / All I need's a little love in the dark..."
Perhaps the cuties in Brit pop/rock band are filling the void left by The Script here in the US with their catchy choruses about love lost. "Me And My Broken Heart" is every bit as earwormy as "Breakeven" (can you believe the latter was popular almost five years ago?!?) and fits in quite well with this funky pop/rock Maroon 5-mainstream landscape. Be prepared for this to stick in your head and not want to leave.

SHAKIRA - "Medicine (feat. BLAKE SHELTON)"
"You won't see me poppin' the pills..."
Shak's latest record, the self-titled Shakira., dropped yesterday. Her sexy duet with Rihanna -- "Can't Remember To Forget You" -- along with the album's opener "Dare (La La La)" -- seem to be the only familiar remnants of mainstream Shakira. The vast majority of Shakira. seems to be deeply influenced by acoustic rock and country. It's an interesting new approach. Some tracks work better than others but one that really works for me is "Medicine", the anticipated duet with her Voice co-star Blake Shelton.

"So come on! / Let the ocean take us away..."
A+ in Marketing goes to Atlantic Records for this one. Whether or not this was queued up in the wake of Beyonce's "#Surfboart" meme virality, the Australian teen heartthrob may finally have the breakthrough US single his team has been waiting for. This in tandem with Cody joining the cast of the Dancing With The Stars (the most recent season premiered last week) could bode very well. Minimalist and less generic/predictable than his previous singles, I'm loving the Beach Boys-inspired vibe with three chords and whistles. 

SIA - "Chandelier"
"I'm gonna swing from the chandelier..."

1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, so many hooks in this one! At this point, Sia stands on that hallowed ground of primo songwriter foremost (not totally unlike Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic) and she is needing her own big song (minus a David Guetta co-collab) to really solidify her as a double-duty artist. I'm not totally sold on "Chandelier" being that song but rest assured, it's still a great tune.

TOVE LO - "Not On Drugs"
"I'm not on drugs / I'm just in love..."
Swedish popstar-in-training Tove Lo (real name: Ebba Nilsson) has cut her teeth in the pop world writing tunes for others, including one of Icona Pop's best ("Ready For The Weekend"). Her debut EP, Truth Serum, has been hotly tipped to help break her wide open -- you'll find Tove Lo on a lot of "Most Anticipated" lists for 2014 (she only recently played her first US show a few weeks back!). "Habits" comes in a close second for its lyrical cheek but "Not On Drugs" is so ardently simple and glittery, it's hard to ignore.

BACK IN THE DAY: Selena Laments Her "Amor Prohibito"

19 March 2014

It's time once again to lament love (and song) lost. This month marks twenty years since the release of Selena's iconic Amor Prohibido ('Prohibited Love') album, a record which continues to stand in the pantheon as one of the best Latin/Mexican pop music releases of all time.

While her last "official" album of original material, the English-language peppered Dreaming Of You, released a year later, often gets the majority of the praise here in the US, Amor Prohibido always remained my favorite simply because the album runs from strength to strength.

Recorded during the very pinnacle of Selena's career in the Tejano/Spanish-Language community whilst launching her burgeoning clothing  line, it spawned more than a handful of singles and served as the springboard to Selena's expected English-language crossover (via Dreaming of You) which, of course, never formally happened due to her tragic murder just over a year later.

"Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" was a huge hit internationally -- largely in part thanks to its sing-able nonsense chorus that didn't require knowledge of Spanish -- and won the Song of the Year Award at the Tejano Music Awards. It has since been covered by a variety of artists, not just of Mexican heritage. 

The album's title track was also the lead single from the project and is a mid-tempo of the deceivingly emotional variety. It was also the song that introduced me to Selena's catalog in a formal sense (beyond "Dreaming Of You" and "I Could Fall In Love" which became mainstream English hits in the US in a ripple effect following her death). In my my first ever Spanish language class in middle school, we were asked to try and translate the song into English and explain its meaning. Perhaps this is part of why the song means so much to me even now. The story is the typical fairytale cliche -- a girl falls in love with the boy her parents don't approve of. The charm of the song lies in the chorus' melody and Selena's ardent, sweet vocal. She herself said the lyrics were based on a true story within her family, inspired by her grandparents.

My favorite piece of Amor Prohibido, however, was "Techno Cumbia". So many precedents were set by this song; it sonically plays out like a master class in genre fusion. The chants and call-and-response elements feel like early hip hop while the guitar & drum blams, inspired by techno, follow a rhythm that's vaguely reggae. The song itself is bookended in very stark, minimalist sounds.

It's almost been twenty years since Selena's life and career was cut devastatingly short but her legacy continues to this day. Would the "Macarena" captivate America in 1995-1996 if Selena didn't break through first? It's also arguable that the Latin Explosion of 1999 would never have happened if it weren't for "Dreaming of You" in 1995 and the public interest in her Spanish catalog after her death. Jennifer Lopez can thank her for jump-starting her career not just as an actress but as a singer. Selena Gomez was named after Selena two years before Amor Prohibido was released. Reggaeton saw a marked stronghold in the US in the early 00's and continues on in large cities to this day. Despite this, there remains a hole in the music industry -- no one has been able to tie together so many genres so fluidly and be accepted both as a Spanish and English vocalist (although Shakira is definitely trying). Her back catalog was so inherently strong and she was only just beginning the second phase of career. We're only left to speculate how important and relevant she would become to the US pop market.

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