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#CMJ 2015 PREVIEW: Then & Now with Mel's Faves

Sunday, October 4, 2015

This year is flying. Next week marks the beginning of the Holy Week that is CMJ -- five days of artist showcases, industry panels, networking, and a lot of fun. I was honored to attend the festival for the past two years and this coming year we'll be my third time running around from venue to venue, catching some of my favorite up and coming artists live and discovering a whole slew of fun new faves.

Before we get to who I'm most excited to see this year, I figured it'd be pretty fun to do a little Then and Now with my favorite acts that I caught during CMJ week in the past two years. Read on to refresh your memory. Click on the artists' names to hear more...

Catching this British firebird perform her live set in 2013 will go down in the history books as one of my most famous concert moments ever. Neon was smack in the middle of an incredible moment for her career. She'd released a handful of delicious pop singles with major label Warner Bros: "Bad Dog", "Gold" (co-written by Bruno Mars, thank you), "Get Over U" (co-written by Sia, thank you), and "F*ck U Betta". She'd also had a minor hit with the Gym Class Heroes via "A** Back Home". Despite all this, it was basically radio silence when it came to her own album. On stage, Neon was as theatrical as ever (in full Marilyn Monroe regalia) and brutally honest about her own career -- having to start over, essentially, as an independent artist artist in order to be truly herself. It was that night that she premiered a handful of new material, including the phenomenal "Some Like It Hot" which was later featured on her 301 to Paradise mixtape, which saw the light of day a few months later. Now, Neon has released a few more mixtapes, the stellar single "Yard Sale" (one of my faves of 2014), and is prepping for the imminent release of her true debut album, Eleutheromanic.

I have a long history with Alexz Johnson, mostly because I loved and adored the Canadian teen drama Instant Star, which she starred in. Despite being a fan of her talent, I had never seen her perform live until CMJ Week in 2014, which she was coincidentally spending promoting her then brand-new album, Let 'Em Eat Cake. Since then, she has been criss-crossing the countr(ies) promoting said album and finished a month+ long residency at The Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. Hopefully a new album is in the cards soon.

You can file brother band AJR as a "favorite surprise". They were tacked on as a late addition to a showcase I had already planned on attending but they won me over as a fan almost instantaneously. The group's charisma and appeal was totally contagious, hinging on the fact that despite being so young, they were all multi-instrumentalists, writing and recording their own music in their own apartment while still pursuing school. Since first seeing them live in 2013, AJR has had a crazy run. Their Spongebob Squarepants-sampling single "I'm Ready" (which they were promoting at the time that I saw them) made the viral rounds, earning them rotation on Sirius XM, iHeartRadio, MySpace, you name it. They opened for Demi Lovato and Fifth Harmony. Middle brother Ryan did some writing and production work on Andy Grammar's latest record. They released their full album, Living Room, was released this past March and "I'm Ready" was a key element in the trailer for the Amy Schumer film vehicle Trainwreck
Sigh. CMJ 2013 was the first of my two times seeing the fabulous Betty live. She was the headliner of her showcase and it wasn't really a surprise as to why. At the time, "Somebody Loves You" was a viral hit that was a mere hint at the pop greatness that was to come -- in fact, she signed to RCA Records a mere month before I saw her perform live. Her set was one of the first times she performed her single, "Heartbreak Dream", live. Since then, she's released her album, Take Me When You Go, opened for Kylie Minogue and Katy Perry, and toured with the equally fabulous Kiesza. As if that wasn't enough, "Somebody Loves You" and "All Of You" both hit #1 on the Billboard Dance charts and the former was covered/featured in a poignant episode during the final season of Glee

Kudos to this lady for somehow managing to stay independent despite putting out what was arguably the most pop-friendly, hooky EP of 2014 -- Echo. Since then, NYC's own pop revolution that calls herself VERITE has dropped a second, stellar EP (Sentiment) and has jumped aboard MS MR's live tour (which will include a stop at Terminal 5 here in NYC). 

Damn, does Australia have some sexy, talented men. Strange Talk is the perfect example of this. While I was somewhat familiar with their jam of a song "Climbing Walls" before seeing their set, it was seeing them perform in a live setting that really solidifying my fanship of them. Since seeing them live during CMJ, the group released their stellar debut album Cast Away and I was able to catch them live again -- also in a small, intimate setting -- at the famed Mercury Lounge while they were promoting their stellar single "Young Hearts". Currently, the group has re-branded a two man band. They are touring the States via their E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N. tour with new music. 

Sweden is known as home of the good pop for a reason. NoNoNo's "Pumping Blood" should have been a much bigger single than it was, but no matter. I managed to catch NoNoNo twice during the same week during CMJ (a feat I've yet been unable to replicate with any other artist) and both times were separately and equally amazing. Their debut album, We Are Only What We Feel, was released in 2014 and just this past July, a remix compilation album (admittedly mostly of the already flawless, aforementioned "Pumping Blood") hit the streets. The group is currently still performing around the world and have been in and out of the studio working on new music.

I couldn't have been happier to have caught this talented lady live when I did. Now, Elle King is the hot ticket in town, mostly thanks to her single "Ex's & Oh's" that is currently rising up the charts as we speak. Her album, Love Stuff, was released via RCA this past Valentine's Day.

REALITY DAZE: Daria Jazmin joins #TeamPharrell on #TheVoice

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Okay, so now I'm conflicted.

Last week, Kota Wade (formerly of Girl Radical) jumped into the music reality show foray that is 'The Voice', joining Gwen Stefani's team. It also bares mentioning that she managed to turn all of the chairs around save for Adam Levine.

Earlier this week, another fave girl group alum joined 'The Voice' and managed the same three-chair-swivel feat, but instead sided with Pharrell William's team -- baby Daria Jazmin of the Jazmin Sisters! You may recall the sister-with-voices girl group and their fab SWV-sampling single "You" from last year, which I loved and adored.

Question is - now what's a girl to do in terms of who to root for? I guess I'm just going to have to widen my net of support...

Check out Daria's live cover of Megan Trainer's "Dear Future Husband" below and if you love it, buy it on iTunes!

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: Ariana Grande brings #TheHoneymoonTour to Brooklyn + Prince Royce & bonus Who Is Fancy

Monday, September 28, 2015

It's been a second since I've been on the concert scene, hasn't it? I remedied that last night with a little dalliance with the modern incarnation of "tiny female popstar with a voice", your girl and mine, Ariana Grande, via her second official headliner bill dubbed The Honeymoon Tour at Brooklyn's Barclays Center -- the second of a two-night run. The home of the Brooklyn Nets was sold out, a literal sea of Cat Ear headbands, winged out eyeliner to the Gods, lots of black and faux leather, and the ever-present high ponytail. And we're not just talking about Ariana's current core fanbase -- tweenage and teenage girls -- but their moms, the gay boys, and grown ladies like moi.

Despite tickets advertising the show starting at 7:30PM, the show officially began at 7PM with a far too short set by Who is Fancy, a beyond talented vocalist in his own right. Dressed in a silver glitter jacket, Fancy didn't need anything...well...fancy to impress. If you haven't heard his single, "Goodbye", and you love ardent, yearning vocal performances, you need to check it out. At one point, he pulled out an acoustic guitar and whipped out a well-crafted acoustic mashup cover of Beyonce's "Baby Boy", Tweet's "Oops (Oh My)", and Christina Milian's "Dip It Low". Perhaps the crowd at Barclays that night was just too young to feel its brilliance (pretty safe bet, to be quite honest) but it definitely won yours truly over (reference!).

Ariana's older brother Frankie J. Grande jumped on stage during Fancy's set and the two shimmied around, getting the crowd worked up and off their seats. The two seemed like legitimate friends.

Who Is Fancy closed his set with new, upcoming single "Boys Like You", which was later announced on stage to be coming soon with a featuring tag by Ariana herself. His debut album, which is slated to have an additional big diva duet/feature (currently kept secret), is set for early 2016.

At 7:30PM, bachata king, impressively decorated-in-awards-outside-of-the-Top-40-Mainstream, latin popstar Prince Royce took to the stage. Despite having released a handful of albums, he mostly stayed within the lane of his latest, Double Vision, which noticeably strays from his prize-winning latin pop sound and is instead more in the urban/R&B lane. He entered to the tune of "Stuck on a Feeling" (which features a not-present/only-in-pre-recorded-vocal Snoop Dogg) that sounds very 112's "Peaches & Cream". Try and tell me I'm wrong...

Other highlight's from Royce's set include "Lie To Me", a Tyga-less "Double Vision", and his Spanglish cover of the classic "Stand By Me". At one point, he plucked a female (Royce) fan from the audience and serenaded her on stage to the tune of his song "Lucky One", in the end handing her a rose and kissing her hand while on bended knee.

Royce is too cute for his own good and he sure knows it -- it's clear they are trying to push him as latin Usher. Whenever he removed an article of clothing, the cliche of screaming women was omniscient. What can I say? He does look good.

In an attempt at "throwing things back a bit", wayyyyyy back to 1998 (read: wayyyyy before some of the girls in the audience were even born), Royce covered a bit of Usher's "Nice & Slow" to a lukewarm response (can you believe?). Deeming that 1998 was "too old school" for the crowd, The Weeknd's "Earned It" was cued up and the Barclays Center erupted in screams. This is the world we now live in, people. Not that there's anything wrong with "Earned It". It's a great song. But still...

I enjoyed Royce's set but given the number of covers and cue-ups to songs that weren't his, it wounds me that he got a forty-five minute set while We Are Fancy got a paltry fifteen.

After Royce, it was a solid half hour of waiting for Ariana. While we did, a "commercial" came over the screen featuring Ariana's voice asking the crowd if they loved Cat Ears as much as she did. The answer was an overwhelming yelp of tweenage/teenage approval. She then eagerly told the crowd that if they hadn't already purchased their "official #TheHoneymoonTour Cat Ears" at the merch stands, they should get them now. The cute Cat Ear headbands lit up and when tethered to the Fahlo smartphone app via a QR code on the headband themselves, they would light-up and blink in tandem to Ari's set list. A great gimmick to be sure -- more bands need to get on this idea. (No, I didn't buy the Cat Ears. I brought my own, kthanks.)

At quarter to nine, the lights went out and Ariana came to the stage to the tune of a solo version of her girl brigade hit "Bang Bang". Ari sang both verses and even attempted part of Nicki's rap. Dressed in an all black outfit with thigh-high stiletto black boots, trademark high pony and those darn Cat Ears, Ariana was all guns blazing with her incredibly impressive voice of hers, playing vocal gymnastics on her runs and adlibs with seeming ease.

The first real highlight came with  My Everything b-side cut, the Diana Ross-sampling "Break Your Heart Right Back" (above). Why this wasn't released as a single, I'll never know. Even the rap bit -- supplied by Childish Gambino via a pre-tape film -- is super catchy. The rapper pre-tapes became a trend since so many of Ariana's songs feature tacked on hip hop bits, but the strange part was some songs had pre-tapes (including one with her "ex" Big Sean) while others, like her single with the aforementioned The Weeknd, "Love Me Harder", simply excluded his voice almost entirely. I'll never get why popstars don't just use versions without the feature artist for when they perform live and the other artist isn't present. Maybe it's a pet peeve of mine.

Her "big" singles were obvious highlights. "One Last Time" was a sing-along crowd favorite. "Break Free" got a lot of folks dancing. She closed the night sans encore with "Problem" (with Iggy again via a pre-tape). Unfortunately for me, previous single "Baby I" was completely omitted for reasons unknown. Yours Truly non-singles "Tattooed Heart" and "Honeymoon Avenue" were included, however, and thankfully so. Homegirl is really at her best when she's just staying still and singing her little heart out.

Ariana's vocal prowess is the reason for her fame and it was put on full display during the show. That being said, the flow and feel of her set felt incredibly disjointed and off-putting. Almost every song ended with a total black-out and Ariana exiting the stage, only to return seconds later from a different area of the stage. She only had one big costume change -- to a glamorous blush flapper-style mini dress and sparkly pumps, complete with a feather boa -- but after that setup finished, she returned to the stage in the same black costume attire she entered in and never strayed from that look until the finale.

I think it's fair to say all of this contributed to an overall lack of forward momentum. At several points during the night, Ariana kept encouraging the crowd to scream louder, implying they were growing restless. Perhaps it was just an off-night? Considering the tour has been rolling since February, you'd think she'd have the kinks already well worked out.

All in all, it was a fun night and Ari's voice really is something to behold and I'm excited to see where her next era will take her. I can only hope her upcoming Moonlight album will rely more on her pipes and less on a string of hip hop friends and collaborators. #FingersCrossed.

HEAR THIS: Little Mix Channels The Ronettes in "Love Me Like You" + The Best Modern Meets 60's Girl Group Homage Songs

Saturday, September 26, 2015

My gals in Little Mix continues to swing from strength to strength as they drop yet another clue toward what third album Get Weird will sound like. "Black Magic" was sparkly summer pop. "Hair" was a shady bop. And their new single, "Love Me Like You", is a downright 60's girl group throwback. I'm a sucker for this style and honestly, you should be, too.

"Love Me" is a confident midtempo with a sparse drum-beat, string bass, and somewhat tongue-in-cheek lyrical content wrapped in good-girl-playing-coy packaging. The production is the real MVP here with purposefully echo-y vocals with more straight-ahead harmonies than what LM usually offers to mimic that Phil Spector-produced sound.

Basically, it's hard to listen to this and not picture big hair, bold and winged eyeliner, matching dresses, and the entire group singing around one microphone.

(If you don't have Spotify, 1) What's wrong with you? Don't tell me you're one of those Tidal people. 2) At this current time, the real song isn't available anywhere else to peruse without you buying it. But if you want to buy it, do because it's a great song, obvi.)

It was co-written & produced by Steve Mac who gave us the brilliance that was The Saturdays "Notorious".

As much as I adored Salute, the upcoming Get Weird is shaping up to be the true testament to Little Mix's versatility in the pop game and I couldn't be more happy about that. (PS -- also recently premiered "Grown", arguably also 60's girl group-esque, was co-written by Jess Glynne. I mean. I meannnnnnn.) The album is due out November 6th, so what I'm saying is this: wake me up when October ends.


In addition to la Mix, there's been plenty of fab 60's Girl Group Homage cuts in recent memory. Who's down for a mini-playlist? 

It's a little on the nose but Lady B's cover of the Ronette's classic is almost as good as the original (I mean, she is Bette Midler, after all). It was featured on her latest disc, the cover album dubbed It's The Girls.

If "Love Me Like You" had a sonic cousin, it would be the under-appreciated "Black Heart" by the equally under-appreciated Stooshe -- who are still very much a thing and are working on a follow up to their debut album London With The Lights On. In fact, someone should mash these two songs up.

Arguably one of my favorite KPOP girl groups of the moment, Mamamoo's appeal lies in their vintage sound, bolstered by their vocal talents. "AHH OOP!" is textbook 60's girl group, complete with the outfits and mod makeup.

Even in hindsight, its surprising that "The Promise" was considered a risky move for the Princess of UK Girl Groups.

Much of Paloma's excellent most recent album, A Perfect Contradiction, could fall under this heading but this song really cooks.

What, you expected me to suggest "Nobody"? That one is good, too, certainly, but "Be My Baby" really nailed it for me -- it was the classic Wonder Girls sound mixed with modern flair and didn't have to rely on old tropes to make an impact.

Gleeful 60's homage with lyrics that could work today. As they say, "don't care what the song's about".

After she exited the Sugababes, Mutya went solo for a little bit and released this glorious nugget of pop (which sampled The Ronettes' classic) and featured Amy right around the time she was firing and hitting with her Back to Black album. If we only knew then what we know now.

A classic Spice ballad to be sure but all this ballad lacked was that characteristic Spector-esque drumbeat.

Love a song that I didn't mention? Leave it in the comments!

#NOWKPOPPING: Red Velvet gains respect, Super Junior...remains "Magic"al

Friday, September 25, 2015

L to R: Super Junior, Red Velvet
RED VELVET - The Red Album 
I'll admit. I initially tossed off SM Entertainment's latest production as a f(x) placeholder. Their latest release, LP The Red Album, has put those cavalier thoughts to bed. 

Initially presented as a quartet, Red Velvet is now a five-piece girl group built on quirky fashion appeal (like f(x)) and strong vocal performances with a flair for the dramatic, vintage-inspired melisma (think Girls' Generation-TTS). The Red Album is an admirably cohesive set of mostly uptempo dance songs, set to put on display the "red" side of RV -- the spicy, high-energy side. (This leads one to assume the re-package/next release will be The Velvet Album, full of syrupy ballads...but I hope not).

Fashion Risks + Vocals...remind you of anyone? SM Entertainment has been releasing successive groups as mirror reflections of each other -- TVXQ! & The GraceSuper Junior & Girls' Generation, and SHINee & f(x)...or so we thought. Perhaps RV is SHINee's true female mirror and f(x) truly is their own thing. (Regardless, I'm just happy they will soon be coming back, even if it is sans Sulli.)

Despite my naysaying best efforts, The Red Album won me and many of my Twitter friends over. The highlight for me without question is the effervescent "Red Dress", complete with a just handful of tempo changes. The group is currently promoting around their single, "Dumb Dumb", which is another big highlight -- but mostly because it sounds like the KPOP version of Jessie J/Ariana Grande/Nicki Minaj's "Bang Bang" with a weird tacked on rap in Korean about Michael Jackson. (Before your Red Velvet-ites come at me, that's not a drag -- I adore "Bang Bang".)


I would have been more than happy to have my boys in Super Junior go officially radio silent following the release of the quite good bop that is/was "Devil" but instead, a supposed "Part 2" of their tenth anniversary "special album" (whatever that means -- we are not gonna talk about that cover art because your girl will just get heated) was recently released, including a new song and music video for "Magic", a decidedly lite Euro-pop dance ditty.

It's cute and everything but it lacks the sass "Devil" had. Shrug. Sure, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to see my geriatric idol boys knock each other out of the way for a girl's/the camera's attention. Their sense of humor was always their strongest attribute. But a part of me remains forlorn that "Devil" didn't take a stronger hold.

The repackage also includes a pretty great rap homage track called "You Got It" (featuring only a handful of members, including Donghae only on the vocal bridge and not rapping -- sad face). It also somewhat confirmed brewing rumors of another Super Junior sub-unit that will promote during the EunSiHae military hiatus tentatively dubbed Super Junior-H&L, featuring the two elde(rly)st members Heechul & Leeteuk. This makes sense, considering its most popular spinoff group -- Mandopop-focused Super Junior-M -- will be down four of its eight members. No shade to Chul & Teuk, as I'm all for SuJu doing something while EunSiHae fulfill their civic duty, but could we also get that Super Junior-KRY (Kyuhyun, Ryeowook, Yesung) album we were promised? Kthanks.

PS - Less than a month left before my husband bias leaves to join the police for two years. No, I'm not crying, shut up. Now, don't mind me. I'll just be over here twiddling my thumbs, trying to figure out what the hell to do in KPOP land once both he and the original bias (due for service in November) have left.

My plan of action is outlined by Heechul (the blonde) in the below gif thusly. Gif credit goes here.

FRESH OUT THE BOX: Jess Glynne, Ellie Goulding, Disclosure, MNEK, Vanessa White, & more

Thursday, September 24, 2015

L to R: Jess Glynne, MNEK & Zara Larsson, Disclosure & Lion Babe, Ellie Goulding
Only two more Friday's left before Q4 Priority takes over. Here's what's been taking priority on my Spotify since we last chatted. As always, click on the song titles to hear the song.


Hey fam, let's be real. Are you just not that into forever-perky Taylor Swift but are willing to admit homegirl can write some tunes? (Guilty.) Ryan Adams has your back. He recently released a cover album of T-Swift's recent record, 1989, song for song, in his own indie-folk interpretation and it kind of blew my mind.  

Easily Disclosure's best since "Latch" and it features the fabulous and underrated Lion Babe!

Just because Nick Jonas is a reputable pop phenomenon now, fellow formerly solo Jonai Joe Jonas has formed the dance band DNCE (like 'dance', get it?). "Cake By The Ocean" is the first offering from the project. Since Nick has the Justin Timberlake front covered, Joe has opted for a more Cobra Starship-esque feel. We'll see where this train leads...

Speaking of Nick J, who else is watching and devouring the new FOX show 'Scream Queens'? It is literally my everything, soundtrack included. The premiere two-episode included this, the latest from Eden XO, in its rank -- a 2015 lite-pop cover of the Thompson Twins classic. 

It's unsurprising but I've been playing Jess Glynne's debut album, I Cry When I Laugh, back to front on repeat ad naseum. This is the current favorite. It changes by the hour.

This is really growing on me. While "Good For You" felt a little too posture-y, "Same Old Love" has a little bit of old soul to it, something I believe Selena herself also possesses. Her new album will certainly be interesting.

This song sure is it for me right now. Could it be a response to Ed Sheeran's "Don't", which was allegedly written about her? Who cares -- it's a killer dance track and it breaks the borderline monotony Ellie had been perpetuating with her string of EDM-y, thin-vocalled pop hits. A move in the right direction, certainly.

This man can tackle any genre, any feel, and it's always a slam dunk. His latest is dark disco at its finest.

Say what? My favorite teenage Swedish popstar and my favorite mega-producer/singer-songwriter have collaborated on a sweet pop song that's perfect for the fall? I'm all hands in, let's do this.

While much of Leona's latest album went right through me (and it's a shame because she has such a great voice but its clear her producers don't know how to use it/her), this one stood out.

Demi is not playing around with this new album (also to be called Confident). Good thing, too. She really soars when she's being body-positive and girl power-y. I could get behind this song -- it really amps you up, no matter what age bracket you fall into. Because nothing's wrong with being confident.

I honestly wasn't expecting this EP but any Kylie is good Kylie.

Lots of surprising, 80's inspired pop nuggets on PHASES's debut album, For Life. They are currently on the road with Adam Lambert and Rachel Platten. 

A "wild"card surprise. I like his feel.

VANESSA WHITE - "Relationship Goals"
It's official. The first of my beloved The Saturdays have dropped solo music. Golden-throated, small-but-mighty Vanessa White has offered up "Relationship Goals" on Soundcloud. At first, it seems like a very 2015, decidedly rhythmic & urban midtempo before it builds toward the chorus and the background beat starts escalating. Very promising stuff -- and very un-Saturdays. Bravo, Vanessa!

Dear clubs, play this loud and often.

REALITY DAZE: Kota Wade is now #TeamGwen on 'The Voice'

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Is anyone *still* watching 'The Voice'? If not, perhaps now is the time to start.

Former(?) Girl Radical member and current/perpetual bad a** Kota Wade recently joined the reality show ranks by joining Gwen Stefani's "team" on the popular competition show, after encouraging not just Gwen but Pharrell Williams and Blake Shelton to turn their chairs around.

You may recall that I interviewed Ms. Kota last year and we chatted a bit about her then association with JC Chasez's super-sized girl group Girl Radical, her own side project band Bad Wolf, her superb sense of style, and (of course, because your girl is your girl) K-POP. You can read that interview here.

Obvi, I'm #TeamGwen if it means we get to hear more from Kota. Get it, girl! Like what you hear? Her cover of Sam Cooke's classic "Bring It On Home" (shown above) is now available for purchase on iTunes.

SPOTIFY SAYS: Mel's #DiscoverWeekly with Scavenger Hunt, Grace, Kat Graham, Max & more

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

If you are #TeamSpotify like I am, you're probably aware of their Discover Weekly program that rolled out back in July -- offering up "curated" playlists for each user on a weekly basis with a focus on new and underground music tailored to your likes. While initially I was super impressed with how on the money Spotify had me pegged, the weeks that followed were relatively lackluster with me saving only a handful of faves on a week to week basis.

Here's a look at my favorite picks I've been handed since that exceptional first week, as well as a smattering of good 'uns worth checking into if you're so inclined.

Aussie old-school vocalist Grace (last name: Sewell) got her big break while performing a cover of Jessie J's "Do It Like A Dude" for DropOut UK. Since then, she's signed with RCA, began working furiously with Quincy Jones, and dropped her first EP, dubbed Memo. The first single from the project was "You Don't Own Me", a modernized remake of Lesley Gore's 1963 hit. However, it's the rest of Memo that intrigues yours truly. Her 60's girl group sound coupled with her fresh teen aesthetic reminds me of when Pixie Lott first perky-popped her way onto the UK pop scene, but Grace has a decidedly urban bend.

Sure, I was plenty familiar with The Vampire Diaries actress turned potential popstar Kat Graham. Her jam "Put Your Graffiti On Me" was my ish a few years back. Now an independent artist, Kat continues to play with different genres and sounds. "1991" is an homage the best decade for dance music with plenty of TLC "What About Your Friends" samples and freshness. 

No, it's not my #1 bias in KPOP this time. MAX (last name: Schneider) is just 23 years young but has been around the proverbial performance block from modeling to songwriting for Disney's Shake It Up to acting on Nickelodeon (How To Rock; Rags). Don't let the latter two color what you'd expect his own music to sound like -- "Gibberish" is Bruno Mars meets Nick Jonas, slick pop at it's finest, and Max delivers a rollickin' vocal performance to boot. In addition to his own music, he's also concurrently a vocalist for the group Witchita. Their single "Mrs. Magoo" is a lot of fun as well.
BONUS: New Gal Group Sweet Suspense (on the road with The Fooo Conspiracy and After Romeocovered this song and it's just as fun. 

This dreamy electro-synth band hits the 80's Berlin meets Roxette dynamic on the head with this one. It's appealing enough to make me want to jump in head first into the rest of their fab catalog.


...and here are some choice picks to look into...

FRESH OUT THE BOX: Little Mix, Janet, Halsey, The Weeknd

Monday, September 7, 2015

September is here! That means a break in the temperatures (aka tights weather!), Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and the run up to Q4. Since we last chatted new music, there was some familiar good ones (The Weeknd! Little Mix!) and some surprise nuggets (Duran Duran and Kiesza? Halsey? Wut). Here's some new goodness you should be turning up loud.

Chances are you've probably already heard of her and her breakthrough smash "Here". I'd put her right up there with Tori Kelly in terms of songwriters that teens can both look up to and relate to. Her EP, Four Pink Walls, is a must listen from beginning to end.

While their first push single with Janelle Monae did little to move me, get Ms. Kiesza involved and I'm sure to be impressed. 

I've had Halsey on the back of my mind for awhile now but in no way at all was I expecting to so thoroughly enjoy her debut set BADLANDS. It's literally good cover to cover, not a bad one in the bunch. It was hard to pick a favorite but for now it'll be anthematic "New Americana" if only for the Notorioius B.I.G. and Nirvana references. She's clearly the new It Girl to watch, and BADLANDS might very well be 2015's Queen of the Clouds surprise stunner.

If it was up to me, this 90's dance trend will. never. stop. Lovely Ella Henderson sees some great play here as well -- if you loved her big voice on her single "Ghost", you'll be all about this.

Jess's debut album, I Cry When I Laugh, hits the US finally this Friday but I'm impatient and want it right freakin' now. I literally wore out "Don't Be So Hard On Yourself" (what can I say, it lyrically resonates for me most days) but "Why Me" comes in a close second.

Sob Sob Sob. The Queen could sing the phone book and I'd be here for it. Probably crying while she did it, too.

This is not a sound I was necessarily expecting from Little Mix but certainly they can pull it off. A part of me desperately wishes this a Zayn diss track but either way, it's a fun hair swinging romp and ridiculous for that silly line in the chorus ("He was just a (ZING!) and he knew it!").

Look, I get it. The Weeknd (or as my co-worker calls him "The Week-und") is supremely talented and is helping hold down the R&B fort in the mainstream. The Beauty Behind the Madness album is a deep listen with lots of gems but I feel like his super blunt lyrical style just isn't for me. Call me a romantic, I don't care. That being said, "In The Night" immediately stood out for its 80's Michael Jackson feel. Ace.

This whistle-stomp style really soars with ZZ's husky, bluesy voice. Can we get her on a joint tour with Ms. Elle King, please?

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