Sunday, August 10, 2014

PLAYING CATCHUP: Summer 2014 Faves

"Last updated June 28th." This blog is NOT dead, I assure you. Important things are happening to me personally behind the scenes but music has always remained a constant reassurance in my life. Before we get to the latest jams to abuse my Spotify, I would be deeply remiss if I didn't take a few minutes of your time to mention these good un's that June and July have brought our way...

This Aussie boyband of the moment makes good with this tune, tipped to be their next quickly devoured single. It was also co-written by the Madden Brothers behind Good Charlotte.

BECKY G - "Shower"
Attempting to break out from under Cher Lloyd's shadow, this 17 year old gives the bratty delivery a rest with her latest single full of thumping 808.

BROODS - "Mother & Father"
Yet another soothing yet driving midtempo jam from this brother-sister duo pair from New Zealand.

PALOMA FAITH - "Only Love Can Hurt Like This"
The British soulstress finally sets this 60's sounding stomper loose on the US. When the chorus opens up a register, it really soars.

Guilty pleasure alert. This US X-Factor spin-off group takes a total 180, offering a totally different sound from their "Miss Movin' On" debut with this ballsy, jangly jam. Don't hate -- they on they Michelle Obama ishhhh.

DAVID GUETTA - "Lovers On The Sun" (feat. SAM MARTIN)
This super DJ continues his dalliance with Western-influenced sounds with this jam for the OKcorral (& the club), whistles and all.

LEELA JAMES - "Who's Gonna Love You More"
This is the type of jam I've been wanting Mary J to belt out. Leela's vocal delivery really sears. Don't try and tell me modern R&B is dead, fool.

KIESZA - "What Is Love"
A guilty pleasure from Haddaway, slowed down to be a yearning, emotional ballad by a young-gun Canadian who has all the blogs talking for her hit "Hideaway". Covers should only be allowed when they are like this -- a truly unique rebranding of a tune you've already heard, to the point that the versions are totally distinct.

KITTEN - "Like A Stranger"
Dark, dancey synth.

LA ROUX - "Tropical Chancer"
It was one of my faves seeing her live and still one of my faves from the recorded sophomore set. Fun, light, and summery.

LIGHTS - "Up We Go"
A familiar synthy sound from this Canadian electro artist. I love the vocal layering here.

MADDIE & TAE - "Girl In A Country Song"
It's like these two gals took my entire criticism of women in country and put it into a song. Of course I'm all about this! Yeah, baby!

Dirty 80's disco with serious Michael Jackson influences. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

MAROON 5 - "Maps"
M5 takes a (probably brief) break from the Nile Rogers-esque jangles with this straight-ahead ditty.

JESSE MCCARTNEY - "Punch Drunk Recreation"
Jesse's latest disc, In Technicolor, truly made serious good. This album cut is a little bit sleazy in that way that Justin Timberlake does so well. 

NICO VEGA - "Dance"
Don't sleep on this one! This Cali-based indie rock troupe has opened for an incredible slew of artists from Blondie to Imagine Dragons and their latest disc, Lead to Light, is full of good 'uns including a cover of Cher's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" and this album cut.

NONONO - "Down Under"
My faves from last year's CMJ Festival recently released their full debut set, We Are Only What We Feel, which includes all the stompers from their debut EP ("Jungle", "Pumpin' Blood", "Like The Wind", "Fire Without A Flame") and also includes "Love" (which they debuted at CMJ, to my knowledge) and this tempo-shifting sparkler, which gives the album its name.

R5 - "Heart Made Up On You"
This pop-rock troupe is mostly made up of siblings that are closely related to the Hough siblings (Derek and Julianne, best known as pro dancers on 'Dancing With The Stars'). This piano-driven midtempo draws parallels to Maroon 5 and that disco-bassline that is so popular these days.

RIXTON - "Wait On Me"
While I enjoyed "Me and My Broken Heart", it was drilled into my head by near constant airplay. "Wait On Me" has a little bit of a fresher sound. To be honest, The Script should be taking notes rather than hanging out with and the like.

THE SATURDAYS - "Greatest Hits Megamix"
So much good. I might be crying a little bit.

ED SHEERAN - "Don't"
Easily one of my faves from Ed's sophomore set, X, for is quick, venomous lyrics (reportedly aimed at his ex Ellie Goulding). 

SHEPPARD - "Geronimo"
Hooks don't come faster than with this cut from this Aussie sextet, featuring shades of Mumford & Sons. That chorus gets stuck in my head and won't leave for days. Bombs away!

SAM SMITH - "Stay With Me"
Oh Sam, your voice is just everything. And so is that gospel-esque stacked chorus.

SIA - "Big Girls Cry"
My fave from Sia's latest, 1000 Forms Of Fear.

MEGHAN TRAINOR - "All About That Bass"
Talk about coming out of literal nowhere. This 20 year-old indie singer-songwriter gained major label traction with this super catchy little ditty about body acceptance.

WAKEY!WAKEY - "Wake Up (Lily, I Love You...)"
I don't know much about Wakey!Wakey! other than its frontman used to be on that CW melodrama 'One Tree Hill'. But don't hold that against him -- there's a slew of great slightly folky, pop-rock to be found here. This is my favorite from their latest set, slightly reminiscent of Plain White T's and Owl City.

JESSIE WARE - "Tough Love"
The first listen into Jessie's upcoming sophomore album (also titled Tough Love). The backbeat is slightly reminiscent of Prince's "When Doves Cry". Comparisons don't get better than that.

JODY WATELY - "Nightlife"
This one goes out to all my gays, because I'm gonna get my drag on with this one.

ZENDAYA - "Too Much"
I like Zendaya but feel like she might be trying a little too hard with some of her post-Disney material. This cut is a carry-over soundtrack single from her Disney Channel Original Movie (or DCOM to the kids), Zapped. But if that puts you off, forget I said it. This has more sass and energy, riding high on the Ariana Grande vintage vocal bandwagon.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

FRESH OUT THE BOX: Playing Ketchup with LP, Colbie Caillat, Panama Wedding, Tove Stryke, Adore Delano & More

Where is the summer going? Ughhhhh. I've missed the "new release" window on these but it doesn't make them less awesome so make sure you fit these into your Spotify/iTunes playlists!

In the past, I was quick to judge Ms. Caillat as just a little too formulaic vanilla cuteness for my tastes (coming from me, this says something, right?). That was until "Hold On" broke late last year. She recently released a surprise EP in Gypsy Heart Side A and it's full of sunny, summery loveliness and a handful of 'real girl'-powery anthems that would be cruel to not stand behind. I stand corrected on my girl, Colbie -- I'm loving all of this.

It's official. We really are in a post-Girls Aloud World. Cheryl (apparently still) Cole has returned to the solo side of the pond via "Crazy Stupid Love", the first single from her fourth album Only Human. It's very handclappy (a la Little Mix's "Wings") and has a bit of a sax in there (relevant) so basically it's a little bit tryhard. Shrug. She looks amazing. The song is a grower for sure. We'll see how it holds up in the grand scheme -- it's out at the end of July in the UK.

If you weren't an avid watcher of RuPaul's Drag Race this past year like I was, you might have no clue who Adore Delano is but if you were an avid watcher of American Idol a few years back, you might still have a chance. Danny Noriega, best known for his head swiveling retort to Simon Cowell of "Some people weren't likin' it!" became a viral sensation back in 2008. He re-emerged recently as the glamtastic party-gal Adore Delano, placing second or third in the sixth installment of the drag queen competition show on LOGO (depending on who you talk to). While I was certainly #TeamBiancaDelRio, I had a soft spot for Adore throughout. Her humor and charm was truly her X-Factor and when you throw in that she's a pretty good singer, you have an undeniable stage performing waiting for the right opportunity. Adore released her debut set, Till Death Do Us Party (cover of the epic Wynter Gordon jam not included). It's a fab piece of guilty pleasure pop ("I Look F*ckin' Cool", anyone?) and quite a few geniune pop stompers in "Give Me Tonight", "Calling All Goddess" and current single "I Adore You". 

Best known as a marginal success story via the American X-Factor, the three boys of Emblem3 were briefly signed to Simon Cowell's label and opened for Selena Gomez on the road. Their single "Chloe (You're The One That I Want)" flopped hardcore and they released Songs From The Couch Vol 1., their latest EP, independently. However, it's currently looking like there won't be a Vol. 2 anytime soon -- lead vocalist Drew announced his exit from the band last week. So I guess they're Emblem2, now? Either way, "Say What You Mean" is fun little bit of pop -- all of Couch is a more mature departure from the embarrassingly juvenile "Chloe" days.

There's a lot of hype surrounding this Swedish duo outfit despite the fact that they aren't really new to the scene at all, not even in America. Also, a lot of folks are quick to correlate them to other popular Swedish artists like The Knife and Icona Pop when First Aid Kit's sound is totally different. Their third album, Stay Gold, is quite ethereal and folksy. Basically, if you dig Lana Del Rey but not her dismal attitude (My Hand's Up!), give First Aid Kit a spin. I love the title track best, if only for the Robert Frost/The Outsiders references.

This post-Pussycat Dolls/Girlicious/Paradiso Girls revamp group has literally been years in the making but their latest effort in single "Ugly Heart" finally shows real promise. It has just enough sass and snark to feel mainstream modern female with a memorable chorus that sticks. It's by far my favorite from the group so far. Now, if they could just ditch Pitbull.  

Mainstream Whistle Country Pop. Let's be real -- few are doing it better than LBT when it comes to big radio singles. I wish they got more credit (and exposure). 

Read My Lips: DO NOT SLEEP ON LP. LP, or Laura Pergolizzi, got her start writing hits for others and the majority of her writing credits skew decidedly more pop than anything depicted on her debut solo effort, Forever For Now. She's written for Erik Hassle, Rihanna ("Cheers (Drink To That)"), The Veronicas ("Lolita") and Christina Aguilera ("The Beautiful People"). Her debut is one of those rare records that every song is listenable and good. There is no need for skipping. It also should be noted that the executive producer for the album was Rob Cavallo, who co-helmed breakthrough projects with Green Day, Paramore and The Goo Goo Dolls amongst others. While the intensity is very much a lighter, more radio-friendly Florence + The Machine, LP's voice has a broader range of dimension. This is easily one of the best records of 2014 so far. No joke.

The twin bros that front Good Charlotte took a brief departure from the band this year for the much more relaxed, decidedly less emo The Madden Brothers. Whether or not you were a fan of Good Charlotte, give "We Are Done" a spin -- if only for the lead up post-chorus, full of stacked vocal harmonies that are perfect for singing at the top of your lungs in the summer heat. Well done.

I saw them live during CMJ and they just dropped their debut EP in Parallel Play. The too-short EP includes debut single sparkler "All Of The People" and this current single "Uma" which sounds positively The Police-like in the best way.

He's an Alt-AC version of Ed Sheeran perhaps. The one-man band Passenger has seen a steady uptick in interest with his radio single "Let Her Go", "Heart's On Fire" and "Scare Away The Dark". Despite the well-earned hype, he's still much more famous around the world than he is here in the States (isn't that the rub, though?). His latest record, Whispers, is great singer-songwriter pop. My fave is "Coins In A Fountain". 

Not to be confused with another fab Swedish popstar Tove Lo, 21 year-old Tove Stryke made her name on the Swedish Pop Idol and released her debut in 2010. She's had a handful of good 'uns credited to her but her latest, "Even If I'm Loud It Doesn't Mean I'm Talking To You" (mouthful), is being served to US radio! Hurray! Because she's blonde and Swedish, the comparisons to Robyn are sure to come but they aren't totally unwarranted here. The song itself is very handclappy and sounds to me like a lost Ting Tings jam. Fantastic.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: Jennifer Lopez on GMA

Mel wearing a purple bob wig in public like
she's Britney circa 2007.
I'm literally seeing so many shows I can't keep up A) with recaps, B) with anything else. #SorryNotSorry

On Friday morning, I headed up to scenic Central Park supppper early in the AM (4AM and I are totally BFFs now, guys) to the ABC Summer Stage area to see an icon in her own right, Ms. Jennifer Lopez, do her thing live in support of her latest disc, A.K.A., out this past week (on my birthday - June 17th!). Full disclosure, the access to this concert was not of my own volition but through my day job as we had VIP Access thanks to the Alzheimer's Association (NYC Chapter) as part of the sponsorship for the event that day. Kudos to them because we had a blast.

Right at 7AM, Ms. Jennifer Lopez appeared in full hair and makeup with all of her gorgeous, tanned, ripped male dancers (and two gorgeous, tanned, ripped female ones, too). She was wearing all black and a pair of black high-top sneakerheels and began rehearsing in earnest her set that would be going live on ABC in about an hour. She ran through a handful of songs but the one that seemed needing the most kinks ironed out was "Booty", a cut from A.K.A. that is to be on deck to be the project's next single. I may be wrong but I think the 'Good Morning America' performance was one of the first live performances of the song -- and it's easily my favorite cut from A.K.A.

You may laugh but that song, co-written by Diplo, is catchy as all get out and I'll be damned if I didn't have it stuck in my head for the rest of the day following this performance. The routine included oversized golden spatulas (that were doused in glitter and looked like they were covered in shiny golden tinfoil up close) that were waved by her sexy male dancers. We joked that they looked like pizza trays (#ILuhYaPizza). Oh, the delirium induced by being woken up at 3AM! Another part of the routine included Jenny rolling on to a white couch (probs from IKEA and it was so filthy and beat up close up! Some assistant should be fired for this!) that her mens lifted up over their heads and spun around. Slay, Diva Mama. Own it.

She also ran through a bit of "On The Floor" and when the opening licks of "Let's Get Loud" were called up we lost our damn minds (it is, of course, the best J.Lo song ever recorded, thanks). Given our relationship with the AA, we were there in full purple regalia that included purple wigs and Jennifer came over to our side and waved and pointed to our wigs and smiled. It was a magical experience, guys. Obviously, we're now best friends. After her run through, she ran off stage to get properly dressed and the dancers continued choreography run throughs with Ms. Lopez's choreographer slaying it as her stand in. 

Once the show started/transferred to Central Park for live coverage, everything started to blur. Liv Tyler suddenly appeared -- a gorgeous Amazon of a woman, I had no idea she was so tall -- and had a short interview live on stage that none of us could really hear. (Insider Dirt: when you go to these types of live studio/television tapings, the audio is captured through sensitive microphones but aren't necessarily amplified for the studio audience like you'd expect microphones to. I don't know the logistics of why -- just be satisfied that it's the truth.) Then, J.Lo arrived in full silver glitterbomb gorgeousness -- as GMA themselves tweeted, her sparkle-spangled boots deserved their own concert -- and opened with "Booty", which went off without a hitch.

(While I'm on "Booty", can I just say her infamous 'booty' didn't seem that big in person? She herself is super petite, as most popstars/showbiz folks are. Either it's -- gasp! -- gotten smaller over the years or the camera/right wardrobe choices just add to its voluptuousness. It was there but it wasn't overwhelming. Yes, this legit was a topic of discussion of ours during her soundcheck. No, I am not kidding.)

She also performed the album's Max Martin-penned current single "First Love", "On The Floor" (like "Booty", performed sans Pitbull, thank Jososphine), just a touch of "Let's Get Loud" (sigh) and once the filming was through, she came out to perform another song just for the fans. She chose the A.K.A. ballad "Never Satisifed", which she had co-written.

Overall, I feel like very few go to a J.Lo show to be wowed by her voice -- they go to see her kill it with her dancing and her stage persona. Jennifer gave us that and then some, dancing hard in her high heeled sparkle boots. She also looked fantastic and seemed very much the consummate professional both during rehearsal and her performance. "On The Floor" included a pseudo-impromptu dance break that included a lot of hair swinging. Oh, and did I mention one of her background singers is Pia Toscano, formerly of American Idol fame?

My only complaint would be how short her performance of "Let's Get Loud" was so I'ma just leave this one here. Luh Ya, J.Lo...

That video above is from 2000, guys. Bow down.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: Little Mix on the TODAY Show (on Mel's Birthday!)

Little Mix @ the Today Show 2014
(L to R: Jesy, Jade, Perrie & Leigh-Anne)
Today -- June 17th -- is my birthday and I spent it with who else but my gal group of the moment, Little Mix. I've come out of it sunburnt, exhausted, and a little worse for the wear but it was WORTH IT.

The UK quartet was in town for a performance on the Today Show for their Toyota Presents...Summer Concert series. They performed a handful of their singles live at the Rockefeller Plaza promenade around 8:30AM.

My birthday, however, started wayyyyy before then. I was up at 3AM in order to catch a town car (#bougie) to Manhattan to get to my VIP pass (again, #bougie) to front row. It's my birthday, I'm not even gonna be modest about it. #sorrynotsorry

Little Mix (Jesy, Jade, Perrie, Leigh-Anne) - Today Show Soundcheck
Leigh-Anne, Jesy, Jade & Perrie (all but Jesy in fabulous pairs of sunglasses) walked onto the stage with their dancer troupe to soundcheck around 6:30AM or so, performing snippet bits of "Little Me", "Move", "Salute" and "Wings" -- the four songs they performed in the action-packed performance hour.

Crowd Malay. (c)
All four looked casually fabulous even during a 6 o'clock hour Soundcheck. Jesy wore an African Sunset-printed tunic and faux leather leggings -- and let it be said, her hair is God's Gift. No joke. Jade wore a black sleeveless crop top and grey drawstring lounge paints. Perrie wore a black crop top and black drawstring pants -- and seemed somewhat self conscious while dancing regarding her top (LOL?). And Leigh-Anne wore a black tank top with tribal-print pants.

After Soundcheck, we were told a celebrity "surprise guest" would be appearing right in front of where we were standing. Turns out it was Dave Chappelle. Dave to Us: "I didn't know people were awake this early!" Me neither, Dave. Me neither.

Staff began passing out random Today show swag including the obnoxious "sunglasses" I'm seen wearing here to your left, bath sponge microphones, neon orange snapbacks and a gray t-shirt that had all of the concert series performers on it.

The group's requisite videographer was on hand filming the fans, supposedly for another one of their YouTube Tour Diaries. He got a bit of me on film saying it's my birthday (like Christmas Day came early) and that this was the best birthday present ever. We shall see if that footage ends up anywhere...

The entire Today Show crew came out afterward, including Matt Lauer and my new BFF in life Hoda Kotb.

When I asked for a selfie with Hoda in honor of my birthday she looked genuinely surprised people wanted pictures with her. She asked how old I was turning and when I told her "27 (and don't judge me!)", she said, "27?!? You look so young!!" It's a blessing and a curse, guys. Try and tell me that #selfie isn't one of the best things you've ever seen. We totes look related, no?

Hoda & Mel = BFF for LYFE.
In between the girls televised performances, they were eagerly signing and snapping photos for any of the fans nearby. Perrie and Leigh-Anne both walked right in front of us on their way into the studio for an interview...

Me (to Perrie): PERRIE! Picture? Picture? Selfie?
Perrie: (nods) Nice nails! (walks away)

Womp womp. But I did manage to get a selfie with one of the Mix -- my fraternal name twin (and curly hair cohort) Leigh-Anne. Birthday = Made. Salute! Salute!

Leigh-Anne of Little Mix & Mel = Birthday Made
You can check out some of the live footage from their performances via the video below. Keep an eagle eye out for your girl -- front row, curly hair, blue dress, purple lipstick. What what.

For even more photos (including an instavid that includes soundcheck footage and Perrie waving at us), hit up my Instagram here.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: La Roux Rocks Hipster Williamsburg

There's a reason why locals call Williamsburg the Capital of All Things Hipster. I finally figured that out on Wednesday night when I ventured in the north side of the City where I currently reside (Brooklyn...keep up) via the frigid but thankfully ventilated L Train (so much flannel, you guys) to see an artist I've been a fan of just about as long as this blog as been alive -- the UK's own La Roux.

Midnight Magic @ Music Hall - Williamsburg
It was my first time at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, yet another venue operative of 'The Bowery Presents' (who also directs my fave spots in the Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, and Terminal 5 among others). It's a mid-level size venue -- much bigger than Mercury Lounge but half the size of Webster Hall. Overall, the sound quality was really fantastic and I found it much easier to hear and enjoy than at Webster Hall. Like many of the other Bowery venues, it has a balcony set-up and also has two raised platforms on either side of the stage if you're short like moi. Somehow however, maybe by the Grace of the Queen Ms. Janet Jackson, we ended up right flesh against stage left. Amazing.

The show began just past 9PM with Midnight Magic, a fantastic surprise support act that we really genuinely enjoyed, jumped on stage. They straddled the line between true funk and electro dance, complete with a full horn section of two trumpets and a trombone. There was also a bongoist (is that a word? It is now.).

But all eyes were clearly on vocalist Tiffany Roth, looking pin-up gal gorgeous in a black sequined cocktail dress with a thick belt and shoulder pads. She was a bit like a cartoon, emoting and belting and getting the crowd proper warmed up. (At one point, a drunk heckler tried to yell to her and she responded, "Jazz? Dance? I can't hear you. Let's do both. Let's jance.") 

Think of them as a blend of Alphabeat and The Scissor Sisters transported to the 70's. The troupe has a handful of albums out on Permanent Vacation and are available for perusal on Spotify. My current fave is the ethereal and spaceship funky "What The Eyes Can't See".

La Roux @ Music Hall - Williamsburg
At just past 10PM, Team LaRoux walked on to the stage to a roar of approval. The set was their first post-Governor's Ball performance (which happened the weekend before here in NYC) and was a 70/30 mixture of faves from the debut set and brand new tunes from the upcoming sophomore record Trouble In Paradise (due out the first week of July).

Vocalist Elly Jackson is beautiful in her androgyny, choosing to rock a primary-color blocked top (the bottom half unbuttoned) with her iconic styled red hair. Elly was flanked by keyboardist/vocalist Micky O'Brien, a drumkit, a synth setup and guitars. Early in the set, a saxophone jumped on stage during "Let Me Down Gently" and ROCKED out. Oh, and she had a floor fan. Yup - Beyonce isn't the only one.

At one point during their set, fans started tossing oversized balloons to be batted around the venue and eventually up to the stage. By midway through La Roux's set, there had to be 20+ balloons flying around or taking rank on either side of Elly and her microphone. At one point she smirked and said, "This isn't a f*ckin' Flaming Lips show," and later, "Where the f*ck are they coming from?" We never did find out and to be honest, it got old fast when you were trying to rock out only to get pelted in the head by balloons. To whoever chose to bring so many, uh...thanks.

The show opened with new cut "Let Me Down Gently", the song that helped launch the new era. Familiar singles in "Fascination" and "I'm Not Your Toy" helped break up the torrent of new music which -- it needs to be said -- all sounds fantastic. If you are like me and felt like a lot of the material on La Roux sounded very similar, you'll be happy to know that Trouble In Paradise is all very catchy but every song stands on its own legs while still feeling inherently La Roux. My faves of the new set were "Tropical Chancer", "Kiss and Not Tell", "Cruel Sexuality" and "Silent Partner".

Faves like "Colourless Color" as well as singles "Quicksand" and "In For The Kill" (my fave) provoked serious sing along sessions. The group finished with "Tigerlily" and finally, returned for their encore of their most mainstream hit in "Bulletproof".

La Roux @ Music Hall - Williamsburg
Elly's voice sounds just as haunting and ephemeral in person as it does on the records. She stayed quite serious and intense throughout the set (with the exception of the insane balloon throwing) and danced with her mic stand as she warbled through, occasionally walking to either side of the stage to sing directly into the audience. I can't explain how thrilling it is to see her literally less than a foot from my face singing my favorite jam "In For The Kill" with that stotic monotone intensity. (instagram vid plug) I just can't.

I legit cannot wait for July 7th to grab Trouble In Paradise. Given what I heard, it may just be the true piece de resistance in La Roux's catalog to cement the fact that La Roux's greatness wasn't just lightning in a bottle. The wait is finally over and La Roux "hiatus" (per Elly "or whatever the hell they wanted to call it") is officially done

Saturday, June 14, 2014

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: Shareen Debuts at 'The Bitter End'

Shareen @ The Bitter End
Back in February, I first mentioned NYC indie artist Shareen here on the blog on the back of her debut EP release, Light. While I've been a fan since then, Tuesday finally marked my first chance to see her do her thing live and it was well worth the wait.

Tuesday marked Shareen's first "headlining" showcase at a live venue in NYC -- at 'The Bitter End', a cabaret-style bar/nightclub in Greenwich Village (just a few blocks from SoHo). The famed venue is long and skinny and features light brick walls. A small stage is set up against the wall on one side with a smattering of tables across from it just north of the main bar. It holds just over 200 people and is well known to have been a stomping ground for emerging talent (both Lady Gaga and Lana Del Rey played shows there very early in their careers) as well as a chosen place for established talent like Bob Dylan, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Pete Seeger, Donny Hathaway and a ridiculously long list of others.

Shareen's staging included a keyboardist, two live backing singers, two backup dancers, and a backing track. She hit the stage in a black catsuit that had smatterings gold sequins and a burgundy bob haircut with blunt bangs, belting out my original fave from Light, "Don't Let The Credits Roll". I really loved the choreography for this one.

Midway through her set, she called up back to back two unexpected covers. First up was a balladized version of Mandy Moore's debut single "Candy", sultry and seductive and complete with Mandy's growled "Like sugar to my heart, baby" delivery. From 1999 to modern day, the second cover was of Justin Timberlake's "Take Back The Night" and it really got the crowd clapping. The inclusion of these two covers really spoke to my personality -- I knew Shareen and I were kindred hearts in our love for bubblegum pop!

She closed with her original cut "Live Again" before bouncing off stage to change into another outfit for her encore (proper popstar alert!). Her dancers took the stage in jersey tops and cut-off jean shorts, dancing it up to an instrumental cut of Janet Jackson's "Escapade". Shareen returned in similar jean cut-offs, accessorized with a black mesh top and black thigh-high stockings to the tune of her cut "Set The World On Fire (Remix)". She closed with her favorite of her original tunes (and my current favorite as well), "Escape", complete with chair choreography.

Overall, I was really excited and impressed by Shareen's performance. Vocally, she sounded really solid and her choice of covers both showed off her personality and added to her setlist in terms of crowd participation. It also should be noted she was rocking serious choreography alongside her dancers in serious heels and still sounded great. You can definitely keep her on your shortlist of Potential Popstars!

Liking what you hear? You can purchase her Light EP on iTunes now and follow her on Twitter via @ShareenAmour. My many, many thanks to Shareen herself and her manager Shean for the invite. I had a blast!

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