GRAMMY NIGHT 2015: Mel's Picks

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Another year gone -- and considering Taylor Swift's 1989 was released after the Grammy nomination period ended, we're sure to be inundated with her nominations next year. I tend to watch the Grammy's mostly for the performances alone but in case you're curious who I want to win, take a look at the nominees below:

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Beck, Morning Phase
Beyoncé, BEYONCÉ
Ed Sheeran, x
Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour
Pharrell, G I R L

Mel's Thoughts: My personal favorite of these is G I R L, however beyond "Happy", Pharrell's full set didn't quite resonate as thoroughly as Beyonce or Sam Smith. I will go with the latter of those two for my choice of overall winner, but I'd be happy with any of these aside from the obvious dark horse -- Beck.

RECORD OF THE YEAR
Sam Smith, “Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)”
Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off”
Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass”
Sia, “Chandelier”
Iggy Azalea f/Charli XCX, “Fancy”

Mel's Thoughts: 'Record of the Year' is performance based rather than the songwriting itself. It's for this reason that I feel like the winner should be either Sam Smith or Sia, preferably the former. However, if Megan Trainor pulls it out, I'd be a happy camper.

SONG OF THE YEAR
“Stay With Me,” James Napier, William Phillips & Sam Smith (Sam Smith)
“Shake It Off,” Max Martin, Shellback & Taylor Swift (Taylor Swift)
“All About That Bass,” Kevin Kadish & Meghan Trainor (Meghan Trainor)
“Chandelier,” Sia Furler & Jesse Shatkin (Sia)
“Take Me to Church,” Andrew Hozier-Byrne, songwriter (Hozier)

Mel's Thoughts: Unlike 'Record of the Year', 'Song of the Year' focuses on the songwriting in the thought that the winning song is a title that could be covered and re-covered rather than live soley in a 2014 vacuum. Despite that difference, I still think its a two-horse race between Sam Smith and Sia.

BEST NEW ARTIST
Sam Smith
Iggy Azalea
Bastille
HAIM
Brandy Clark

Mel's Thoughts: My fave of these? HAIM. Do I think they will win? Nope. Sam Smith is gonna clean up this year as well he should.

PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
Paul Epworth
John Hill
Jay Joyce
Greg Kurstin
Max Martin

Mel's Thoughts: I sure do love to sip the Max Martin Kool-Aid and he did offer up one of my favorite songs this year ("Bang Bang") but for this one, I wanna hand it to Greg Kurstin.

BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE
Sam Smith, “Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)”
Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off”
Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass”
Sia, “Chandelier”
John Legend, “All of Me”

Mel's Thoughts: Sam Smith deserves a lot of awards but I don't feel like his brand of brilliance specifically qualifies as "POP" in the broad sense (I felt the same way about Adele, to be honest). Here is where Taylor Swift may edge things out -- "sick beat" and all -- but if Megan Trainor is to win any category it should be this one.

BEST POP DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE
Iggy Azalea f/Charli XCX, “Fancy”
Coldplay, “A Sky Full of Stars”
A Great Big Word and Christina Aguilera, “Say Something”
Ariana Grande/Jessie J/Nicki Minaj, “Bang Bang”
Katy Perry f/Juicy J, “Dark Horse”

Mel's Thoughts: Coldplay? Here? Seriously? Sigh. Obviously I'm rooting for "Bang Bang" here but Iggy's "Fancy" might be a dark horse.

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM
Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour
Ariana Grande, My Everything
Katy Perry, PRISM
Miley Cyrus, Bangerz
Ed Sheeran, x

Mel's Thoughts: This is sad that this is what we can choose between for Pop. Like I said before, Sam Smith doesn't ring as pure Pop. Ariana, Katy and Miley could cancel each other out (plus all of these albums were mediocre). My choice? Ed all the way.

FRESH OUT THE BOX: Hayley Kiyoko, Marina & The Diamonds, Vanbot, & More

Saturday, February 7, 2015


We're one week into February already! Q1 is flying. Here's this week's new faves. Click the song titles to hear the songs for yo' self.

If you're in the mood for some crunchy electrodance.

Reflections was pretty much a wash except for the singles (sad) but "Like Mariah" is getting a lot of buzz for a reason -- it's the one (new) morsel from 5H's debut album that's worth shouting out. Probably because of the ridiculously heavy-handed interpolation of Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby". 

It's a shame that The Stunners were put on relative ignore (by myself included) as now we can add another name next to Ms. Tinashe in their post-career success column. Like many of The Stunners gals, 23-year-old Hayley Kiyoko also has a pretty successful filmography with lots of small roles in film and television. This Side of Paradise, released this past week, is her second EP and there isn't a bad apple in the bunch.

A warm return to the Jessie James I knew and loved! Now, since getting loved-up, having a baby, and officially changing her stage name to be Jessie James Decker, her blend of country-pop still rollicks. "Clint Eastwood" is hardly re-inventing the wheel and sounds right at home with previous tunes like "Bullet", "Wanted", and "Boys In The Summer." If it ain't broke...

This Froot era is really shaping up nicely. Each new release seems to be better than the last.

Yeah, okay -- so this isn't new. At all. (Side eye at all the children potentially reading this after watching Katy Perry's halftime performance and assuming as such.) But any excuse to blast Missy works for me. I sincerely hope this means new music is in the works. Welcome Home, Missy!

Can I just say, kudos to Mr. DeGraw for stepping out of his predictable comfort zone for this? (Well, sort of.) A revamped version of "Brother" -- which was originally featured on Christian rock band Needtobreathe's fifth album, Rivers In The Wasteland and was released last year -- has been offered up to the mainstream. It was co-written by Ed Cash, who's worked with other great Christian artists like Britt Nicole and Amy Grant.

It's not yet "truly" available for consumption but this sparkling midtempo landed on Neon's Soundcloud page recently after she's been touting it around on tour for months. It's also worth mentioning it was produced by the Norwegian Dsign Music Group -- a mainstay for KPOP's SM Entertainment (most recent collabs: Jonghyun of SHINee's solo work and Super Junior's "This Is Love").

I'm such a sucker for revisionist covers. "Crazy In Love" is such an iconic song in its initial form -- its a true snapshot of Beyonce's first solo dalliances long before she was the brand entity she is today. You hear it slowed and stripped down by Sofia Karlberg and it sounds like a different story entirely.

Following an excellent debut bow in the vein of her contemporary and fellow Swede Robyn, Vanbot returns to the scene with the decidedly more ethereal and dreamy "Trooper". 


#TBT: SHANIA TWAIN PUTS HER FOOT DOWN WITH "ANY MAN OF MINE"

Thursday, February 5, 2015

#TBT is (yet another) column/essay idea I'm in the process of fleshing out. Rather than just facts on a song of old a la my previous Back In The Days of yore, #TBT will (ideally) be a weekly column featuring various songs that resonate to me personally in the hopes that it will also spark happy memories for you, dear reader. Rules: the song must be released within the past 10-20 years and I cannot repeat from the same year (until all years in this span are covered and then we start again), plus each column will be centered around a letter of the alphabet beginning with 'A' and so on. Got it? Then let's hop on our Time Machine...

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The year was 1995. That April, I was seven years old. I like to count this time as my true awakening when it comes to popular music. I had already absorbed albums like En Vogue's Funky Divas, Whitney's The Bodyguard, and Janet Jackson's Janet. and had already begun listening to the Weekly Top 40 Countdown on the radio like a ritual. It seemed like the R&B side of things had already solidified within me when it comes to my current musical tastes. But it was around this time that the first real country song I ever connected to was released.

Truthfully -- if we're being totally accurate -- I wouldn't be introduced to this song until a few months later via the 1996 compilation disc celebrating the Grammy Award nominees. The disc included Seal's "Kiss From A Rose", Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise", Blues Traveler's "Run-Around" (Fun Fact: Blues Traveler was my first concert ever -- probably right around this time), and a breakthrough track from one woman whom Taylor Swift can thank for her entire career. I'm talking of course about Shania Twain.



We would still be a few years away from her iconic Come On Over album that truly brought her mass appeal but at this point, she was promoting her sophomore album, The Woman In Me. The project was lead by the honkey-tonkey "Who's Bed Has Your Boots Been Under?" (does it get more country than that?) but it was second single "Any Man Of Mine" that gained real resonance.

I've never been much of a country fan except when it had shades of pop appeal and you can't describe that "sub-genre" of Country music without bringing up Shania -- arguably the first (or second if you count Dolly Parton) to give country a poppy sheen.

Now, this might seem ridiculous but when I hear "Any Man Of Mine" -- even to this day -- one thing is brought to mind: being wrapped up til I was almost immobile in a jacket and snow pants and going tubing down a hill.

Um...what, you say? 

My hometown was named one of the coldest in the country. When I was a kid, my family used to have yearly outings to a ski resort that was dubbed The Skiiathon. Inventive name, yes, I know. I was too young -- and too dis-interested -- to want to ski but at these events, it was prime chance to spend the day tobogganing down a semi-steep, snow-covered hillside with my cousins. After a few hours of that, everyone trundled inside for dinner, drinks, and a lot of music was played by the nearby jukebox.

I don't like to consider my family "country" in the stereotypical sense because we really weren't. I grew up in Central Upstate New York, your typical American suburbia. It certainly isn't New York City but it's not the total boonies either. But when you're talking politics, we tended to lean a little more toward the Conservative side of things. I'm not saying that automatically connects itself to an ardent love of country music or that country music can only be loved by Republicans...but when in Rome (if you know the area of my hometown, there's a pun in that sentence).

Anywho -- I can vividly remember the ol' juke playing a lot of country. When "Achy Breaky Heart" was a thing (and boy, was it a thing) and even long after it, I can remember adults doing line dances to this song while I watched. I might have even danced along with them. "Any Man of Mine" was one of those line-dance provoking songs. As corny as it might have seemed -- even then! -- I couldn't deny just how catchy it was. 

The lyrics, co-written by Twain herself alongside her then husband Mutt Lange, when stripped of the country feel were decidedly conducive to the strong female attachments that I was already obsessed with even at that age. "I need a man who knows how the story goes / He's gotta be a heartbeatin', fine treatin', breath-takin', earthquakin' kind / Any man of mine."

You'd be hard-pressed to find a better anthem for young women than that. In fact, if anything -- if taken too literally, it might be a little too pro-female. "Any man of mine better disagree / When I say another woman's looking better than me / And when I burn him dinner and I burn it black / He better say, 'Mmm, I like it like that' / And if I change my mind a million times / I wanna hear him say, 'Yeah (Yeah) Yeah (Yeah), I like it that way!'"

However, it was that level of humor and realism that may have inadvertently drawn me to the song (and Shania) in the first place. She'd have plenty of jams to come that would encourage you to have higher standards about your choice in partner ("That Don't Impress Me Much", anyone?) but "Any Man of Mine" stands apart, surprisingly for its more authentic country charm. Would have thought?

Do you have a Shania song that speaks to you? Tell me about it the comments.

IN REVIEW: ZARA LARSSON MAKES A STELLAR US BOW

Sunday, February 1, 2015

January 2015 is in the books and we already have a new rookie popstar to root for.

Okay, so "rookie" is kind of a misnomer -- at least in the case of Sweden's own Zara Larsson. At just 17 years young, Zara has released a #1 debut album in her native Sweden, a handful of successful EPs, and is now setting her sights on the USA.

She first rose to public consciousness back in pre-Lady Gaga 2008, winning the televised reality competition Talang (read: Sweden's Got Talent). At the final stages of the competition, she wowed while singing Celine Dion's signature song, "My Heart Will Go On". She was 10 years old. Yes, really. What were you doing when you were 10?

Following a jaunt opening for Cher Lloyd's North American tour in 2013 after the success of her debut EP in Sweden, wheels began turning to package together a greatest hits EP of sorts for Zara to be released here and a few weeks back in late January, that came to fruition.

Dubbed Uncover (after her first real single in Sweden that indeed rose to the top spot on the Swedish and Norwegian charts), this EP presents the perfect balance of slick, shiny pop music with brooding, age-appropriate r&pop yearning.


The American Uncover EP features gems from previously released material like "She's Not Me" and the aforementioned "Uncover" as well as songs cherry-picked from her debut full-length 1, which was released in Sweden last October. These include the dramatic-Rihanna-midtempo-esque "Carry You Home", my fave in bouncy "Rootop" that you can view above (produced by Billboard who also did Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend"), and "Wanna Be Your Baby" (co-penned by Claude Kelly). (It also bares noting that 1 further features songwriting by the likes of two fellow Swedish super-songsmiths in Tove Lo and Erik Hassle.)

Vocally impressive and utterly relentless in intensity, Uncover is as strong an introduction as they come -- tight as a drum. My only complaint? It lacks 1's lead single -- the catchy as all get out "Bad Boys". Maybe it'll be released as a single to come stateside? I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Here's to a fruitful 2015, Ms. Larsson.



HEAR THIS: W0LFY of WRATHSCHILD BEGS "LOVE ME"

Saturday, January 31, 2015

It's been pretty quiet on the Wrathschild front, eh? For longer than any of us would have liked. True, Simon Curtis dropped a love letter EP shortly after the new year via Love, S but it wasn't until mid-January that we finally got the nod that the Wrathschild project was indeed still in motion and that an EP -- titled Birds -- will be on its way soon.

While we wait, the female half of Wrathschild (na na), Ro Danishei aka Bad W0lfy, offered up this gorgeous cover of Ellie Goulding's 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack cut "Love Me Like You Do" and I can't stop listening to it.

Her cover is decidedly more stripped down and raw than Ellie's version, allowing her to be more vocally vulnerable than we've ever really heard her before.

I really, really, really need this Birds EP. Like, stat.



FRESH OUT THE BOX: Mikky Ekko, G.R.L., Tove Styrke, & More

Wednesday, January 28, 2015



Just a few weeks into 2015 and I've already missed a week of releases but that's OK since not much really launched yesterday (sorry, Ne-Yo). Here's some buzzy newness to take a listen to...


MIKKY EKKO - "Pretend You Care"
Mikky's proper debut album, Time, saw release last week and though I was well aware of the hype around him, I just plain had no idea how much I would end up adoring the full set. Maybe you were like me and only really connected him with Rihanna's "Stay". If so, let that end right now and give Time a listen. It's full of great songs, especially "Love You Crazy", sexy "U", and my current favorite in "Pretend You Care". Take intensity of Sam Smith and mash it with ballad/mid-tempo Justin Timberlake and you've got a general idea. Get on board.

I definitely enjoy FOB's big hooky singles and this is no exception to the rule. It's arguably their most grabby single since "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark". Also, anything that samples a classic television theme (in this case, The Munsters -- what's up, Nick At Nite fans?), I'm on board for (unless it's Pitbull doing the sampling -- but that goes without saying, right?). 

FIFTH HARMONY - "Worth It (feat. KID INK)"
I'm really hoping "Sledgehammer" isn't a red herring. Reflections has been pushed back another week to next week and "Worth It" hit iTunes last week. Basically, if you liked/tolerated "Them Girls Be Like", this is another one in that vein mixed with Jason DeRulo's "Talk Dirty".

G.R.L. - "Lighthouse"
If Fifth Harmony is not your thing and you're waiting on an (American) Girl Group smash to stand behind, G.R.L. has got your back. In light of member Simone Battle's passing in September, the former quintet-now quartet is pushing on with this scorcher of a mid-tempo about being there for a friend in need. Had this been The Saturdays American breakthrough single, things might have been different. I'm hoping this gives the group more legs -- when paired with "Ugly Heart", they edge out 5H in the American(-ish) Gal Group race for me.

I've yet to watch the Lifetime film (yet) but any dancey Whitney is good Whitney. 
The road might be rough for Imagine Dragons following their massive breakthrough debut album hit. I've yet to hear a jam that compare to any of their previous singles. "Shots" sounds decidedly more Kings of Leon goes disco which isn't really a bad thing. It grows on you.

KOPPS - "Dumb"
I don't know a whole lot about KOPPS other than their featured tag on Joywave's "Tongues". But "Dumb" sure is catchy. 

NE-YO - "Coming With You"
Ne-Yo's latest album, Non-Fiction, dropped yesterday and basically went right through me -- which is a shame since he's such a fab songwriter. I did quite like "Coming With You" though, since it did have a bit of that 90's dance revival feel that is so trendy right now.

TOVE STYRKE - "Ego"
You gotta love Swede Pop because it can be so eclectic. "Ego" is decidedly mellower than previous singles from "the other Tove" -- perhaps to grab at the wave Tove Lo inadvertently created. Let me be clear -- the two are very different. But "Ego" is a clear swipe at Mainstream Top 40 with great results and might be my fave performance by Styrke vocally.


NOW KPOPPING: JongHyun Vs. YongHwa; Sexy Girl Groups

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I last talked KPOP back in October and that was mostly just about my (SM) faves. To some, I know it seems I may have fallen off the KPOP Ledge and back in to the Western World -- and you might be a little bit right. 2014 was a crazy year for KPOP, especially for my favorite artists. The appeal has waned for me because many of the artists I adored were in hiatus or left in limbo. But here I am making a promise to you KPOP-loving readers I will try my hardest to get back on the bandwagon -- and if you have any suggestions of artists to check out, let a girl know.

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SHINee's JONGHYUN vs. CN BLUE's YONGHWA
When the news first broke of SHINee's lead vocal (and my favorite voice of the group) Jong Hyun would be making a stab at the solo market, I was stoked. I was even more stoked when he openly said he didn't intend to go the all ballads route like I initially feared.

His debut solo EP, Base, dropped this past week and...I'm really mad that I'm not into it. It's not that it's bad -- quite the contrary. It just weirds me out that I was more into maknae Taemin's solo offering (Ace) last year than Jong's. I'm glad he's putting out material he clearly is into and the fact that he wrote all of the lyrics to this project isn't something that should be slighted. Jong remains to be a rarity in the nameless idol game and this album takes him one step closer to the longevity in the music business that I know he craves. But when it comes to me -- I just wasn't into it. And that makes me sad. Sigh. But 2015 will bring us a new SHINee record, right? Right?

In terms of what was a surprise was the pitting of another "boy band" member going solo against Jong. CN BLUE, known as a pop/rock idol band with a slightly more serious (read: no choreography) approach to teen pop music, has had handful of great tunes that I've enjoyed ("Hey You", "I'm A Loner") but it was mostly due to me being utterly charmed by Jung Yong Hwa, the group's leader, lead vocalist, and guitarist. Yong was featured on the omnisicent Korean "reality" comedy We Got Married with the baby of Girls' Generation Seohyun and it was there that he really shined in terms of his personality and likability. He offered up a new solo single this week in "Mileage", featuring rapper YDG, and while the song itself is relatively serious and midtempo, the video is really quirky. 

As much as I stan for Jong and my loverholic robotronic SHINee boys, I'm giving this round to YongHwa.


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SEXY (vs.?) TALENTED GIRL GROUPS: EXID, TAHITI, MAMAMOO

For what seemed like the longest time, girl groups in KPOP were allowed to have one inherent concept: either be cutesy or be sexy. One or the other. No in betweens. And when I say one or the other, it had to be extreme in whichever direction you decided to take.

In 2014, the lines officially began to blur. Sure, we had 2NE1 come in back in 2009 and smash down preconceived notions of who a South Korean girl group could be in the pop world and there were plenty of groups that tried to mimic their success but fast forward to now and you see a variety of fresh girl groups using a handful of familiar ingredients and mixing them together to feel much more real as artists and women than before.

It's not to say that boy bands aren't also guilty of hiding behind generic sex appeal (who do you think you're talking to, here). But when it comes to the girls, its much more black and white -- and I think now Korea is starting to realize that girl groups can be a little more...well, grey.

EXID is a great example. They initially debuted in 2011 and had lots of potential. In 2013, half of the group (literally half!) left the group in favor of joining a fresh gal group called BESTie that is also currently still active. The remaining three members of EXID recruited two new girls and this past summer released the cut "Up & Down" -- a catchy dance song with ballsy rap, sexy choreography and a head-scratcher of a video. The song initially was a total flop but due to the wonder that is social media and viral marketing, it was boosted back up the charts months after it was released. This is definitely not something happens in the KPOP marketplace. Currently, the song is still actively being promoted and recently placed first in on Music Bank.



Being sexy in a video is a no brainer. It's nothing new; nothing we haven't already seen. But blowing and wiggling (vaguely phallic) balloons is pretty freaking ballsy (and hysterical) for the Korean Teen Idol game. There's a difference between an artist owning her sexuality and just using it as click bait.

You can absolutely look at EXID as Survivors in a notoriously shallow Girl Group game and can also compare them to another girl group -- TAHITI -- who recently dropped a brand new song called "Phone Number". On paper, the song is catchy, sexy, and shows off some talented vocals. Its much akin to the doo-wop-pop sound heralded by Meghan Trainor here in the States. But when you take a peek at the video, the appeal of the song gets drowned by the utterly blatant sex appeal offered up -- much of which was identified with EXID's "Up & Down" (the painted on leather pants, the bending-over choreography). 

Sex appeal can be critical but what I like so much about a group like EXID is its just one part of a song they are promoting rather than being the sole marketing strategy. In fact, much of the sexuality in "Up & Down" also lends itself to humor, making the group feel much more human than just sexy girls dressed up to coo and seduce.

My girls in MAMAMOO also have their style down to a science. Their latest, "Piano Man", feels intrinsically sexy without super sexually-charged choreography or barely there outfits. And don't you dare forget the fact that they can really sing -- something that should be commended outright.

Personally, I feel like if an artist can offer up more in a pop song than just a gimmick, I'm here for it. If KPOP falls prey to anything, it's being caught up the machine of constant output that the performer itself is put on a back burner. Maybe 2015 will be the year that KPOP Girl Groups get the memo that you can be a fun, relatable group and put out fun songs -- rather than just carbon-copied "concepts".

FRESH OUT THE BOX: Kelly Clarkson, Ivy Levan, Kerli, MisterWives, Halestorm, Taylor Bueno

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Happy Weekend -- hope you had a great week! I think it's official in that we've really started settling in to 2015. We saw the return of a Superstar with a Capital S (Kelly Clarkson), some great pop albums (Meghan Trainor = Queen), as well as some unexpected primo pop nuggets. Here's some of what I've been spending my time jamming to this week. Click the song titles to hear the songs...

It's not the big Kelly Clarkson sing-a-long smash that we all have been waiting for since her last original single (the underappreciated "People Like Us" from her Greatest Hits collex) but it does the job well enough. It was produced by Greg Kurstin (P!NK, Tegan & Sara, Lily Allen, Kelly's Stronger album) and written by Kara DioGuardi so it can rely on that talent plus Kelly's vocal strength. Something tells me this may just be the "Mr. Know It All" to the "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" hiding around the corner. The upcoming album, Piece by Piece, is looking at a March release.

Orlando-based indie singer-songwriter Taylor Bueno dropped her Unseen EP this week containing singles "I Like" and "Lucky In Love" (which have both gained some support from Radio Disney). It sounds to me a bit like if Carly Rae Jepsen went the Colbie Caillat direction instead of working with RedFoo -- very organic but still very catchy and sweet. 

Getting "hard rock" recommendations from me is a weird kind of thing but in the case of Halestorm, there is a bridge to poppy sheen. Lead vocalist Lzzy Hale is a modern day Pat Benatar (in my opinion) and prior single "I Miss The Misery" alone would have proved it. Then last year, she broke through the Pop Pandora officially when she assisted on the glorious (and underrated) hit "Shatter Me" with Lindsey Stirling. Halestorm, the band, is signed to Atlantic and could be now poised for a mainstream marketing push with their latest, "Apocalyptic", the first single off of the upcoming Into the Wildlife.

The minute I first heard this song -- despite its provocative not-so-double-entrendre -- I was already hooked. So it came as no surprise to me Ivy is a Cherrytree Records signee. Her debut EP, Introducing the Dame, was out in 2013 but "Biscuit" marks her first real run-for-it attempt at radio. Remember when Christina Aguilera was awkwardly singing about her "Woo Hoo" and it was catchy but weird at the same time? Ivy takes the reigns and the fears are eliminated. She has the voice, the confidence, and the kookiness of Lady Gaga that we all dug in her The Fame / The Fame Monster days. I want this (and her) to be huge. C'mon 2015, don't disappoint us. 

Let's hear it for the Hometown Kids -- this NYC-originated pop band have really hit their stride with this hit. The chorus is so much fun and is complemented with horns and disco guitar. 

Today actually marks two years since I saw The Saturdays live at the Highline Ballroom, so it's also two years to the day since I (re-)fell in love with Estonian pop artist Kerli. Since I've seen her last, her should-have-been-huge album Utopia, filled with dance-y bangers, has been left in the rearview since she left Island Records in favor of indie label Ultra. I'm here for new Kerli material in any vein I can take it and "Raindrops" is a fun club dance jam.

JAZMINE SULLIVAN - "If You Dare" / "Stanley"
I was expecting Jazmine's latest album bow, Reality Show (out this past week), to be much more of a traditional R&B affair but what I got instead (happily) was a mixed bag of genres. I enjoy the set a great deal and definitely recommend it to anyone who loves a good sanger. Both "If You Dare" and "Stanley" stand apart to me because of their hand-clappy backbeats that remind of 70's disco (especially the latter). Good stuff

MEGHAN TRAINOR - "Credit"
I knew I'd be happy with Meghan's Title album before it dropped this past Tuesday and boy, was I right. In fact, I'm bumming that I didn't try to get tickets to see her live earlier (even if it is at Irving Plaza....side eye) because now seats for her early March show there are at least quadruple their original value! Meghan knows her lane and she does it spectacularly well -- her quirky blend of panache and lyrical snark is all over this record and it all feels so intrinsically Meghan. Add to this that she co-wrote every song and she's even more embraceable. Much of the album reminds me of Little Mix's latest -- they may not all sound like singles but it's definitely all fun pop. However, the fact that "Credit" is relegated to a bonus cut from the Deluxe Version is so criminal. It's a must hear. But for those of you who don't really "get" the Meghan Trainor kitsch, give "Like I'm Gonna Lose You" a listen. It features John Legend(!) and it's gorgeous.


FRESH OUT THE BOX: Tove Lo, Marina & The Diamonds, Madonna, & More...

Monday, January 12, 2015


Tomorrow is New Music Tuesday so let's try to cover the holiday ground before even more newness hits the ol' Spotify, shall we? Click the song titles below to watch the video/hear the song.

Because I couldn't not talk about Madonna('s arguably botched comeback). Having a project leak before it's ready is a frustrating reality of the digital age, but there should be no excuses for her sad attempt at a social media campaign with this #RebelHeart business. To be honest, Madonna doesn't need to bend (till she breaks) to current trends. Just put out good material. "Living For Love" is a great dance pop jam -- it'll appeal to the discotheque, it's not inaccessible for Pop Radio, and it doesn't feel like pandering to the #Selfie generation. I don't know how onboard I am with the rest of this project but for what it's worth -- "Living For Love" is fun.

Nicki can get the hell out of here with that "Anaconda" garbage. I like her when she's at her best -- slick with her word play and talking about being a strong female. Much of The Pinkprint went right through me and I'm not really suprised, but this one, featuring a snarky Beyonce, hits all the right notes.

Let me make this clear: I want nothing to do with that Fifty Shades of Grey debacle. Ellie was a bit of an obvious choice for the soundtrack (since she's seemed to do so many) but this song isn't. It's sexy without being over-sexualized and the lyrics paint a story that is both relatable and true to what the (meager) plot of 50 Shades is about -- an innocent women getting involved with an experienced man. To find out it was co-written by Tove Lo and produced by Max Martin just increases the intrigue. Definitely a grower.

Speaking of one of my fave new artists of 2014, "Talking Body" is the latest off Tove's incredible Queen of the Clouds album. Man, can this chick write a hook.

File this under a potential on the Urban format. Produced by The Futuristics, this R&B midtempo employs a not-so-subtle interpolation of Whitney's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and doesn't sound too far away from the one Jeremih song I enjoy, "Don't Tell 'Em" (which samples "Rhythm Is A Dancer"). If you can put the feels of utter sacrilege to bed, it grows on you. 

Something tells me that Marina's upcoming third album, Froot, will be all over the place. "Immortal" is my favorite offering from the project yet despite the fact that Marina Ballads are rarely my thing. 


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