Friday, December 31, 2010

Ro Danishei Gets Her Rainbow 'Ever After'

"Welcome to the beginning of the Rainbow
Where bluebirds don't fly
The sun doesn't shine
Just a disco ball spins high in the sky...
They lied to you, kids -- there's only night
Click your heels three times
See you on the other side..."

The set up, epic. The expectation, great. This is the start of Rochella Danishei ascent upward into the pop realm of the dark and suggestive variety. What a way to begin 2011, dolls. 

Her debut solo album, available for FREE as of January 1, 2011, on (go download while you read this, I'll wait), may be called End of the Rainbow, but it serves as the beginning of a new chapter in her already prosperous career.

Rochella Danishei may just be 19 years young -- if you can believe it -- but she's wise beyond her years, and paid her dues in a little pop group you might have heard of (and might have heard I was quite fond of) called Candy Coated Chaos. It was there she truly began honing her writing chops alongside the likes of Jeff "Jadion" Wells and Simon Curtis, releasing tunes that harbored back nostalgia for when pop was unadulteratedly good and well, shameless. Inspired by the likes of Andreas Carlsson, Max Martin and other godly who's-whos in the Late '90's Pop Hall of Fame, Rochella quickly stood out for her penchant to write a catchy hook, and as End of the Rainbow proves, she is has emerged to be a tour-de-force. Following Candy Coated Chaos' farewell, Rochella hit the road to California, paving the way for the ever-inevitable solo career. She penned a song with friend Simon Curtis, "Brainwash" off the epic (and still free) album 8 Bit Heart (without a doubt one of the best albums of 2010), as she laid the groundwork for her own free release, ready to continue with her grass-roots approach to edgy pop. 

The wait is now over. Gone is the coy naivete that was so prevalent (and admittedly charming) in cCc's material -- a new, more mature Rochella has come forth, and she comes bearing disco balls, floor stompers and glittery, high heeled ruby slippers. With a delivery style along the lines of Britney Spears, with lots of sass, attitude and sex appeal, Ro is all grown up now, and ready to show you that not everything has to be sunny in the pop arena, but it damn well better make you dance. 

Click the cut for a more indepth celebration of all things RAINBOW...
As with Simon's Heart before it, End of the Rainbow works as a concept album of sorts in that it mostly works well as a collective of dark synthy pop. The ten song set (excluding the spoken intro) is almost entirely comprised of uptempos that are relatively unrelenting and in your face in terms of lyrics, courage and bravado. If Simon is Lord Gaga, then Rochella is Princess Gaga -- she's taken up the banner of unapologetic dark pop and spun its on its head, favoring a darker, leaner, meaner message than the "Utopia" and "Masquerade" of 2009. And for the most part -- it works. It works very well.

My own bias for Rochella and her talents aside, End of the Rainbow boils down to the message of being in control, of being a young adult in a crazy world, of re-invention, and of dancable dirty pop. While some songs work better than others, overall, the album is very solid, especially for an independant debut piece to be released for free, and is sure to spin off some viral goodies to help open the doors that desperately need opening for this ever-so-talented artist. 

The set opens with the spoken intro "Bend the Light", which I quoted from in the above, spelling out for you that this body of work is hardly sunshine and daisys (a metaphor for adulthood, no?), before launching into the startlingly catchy "Drunk txt", a bouncy cut that one would expect to be more about style and posturing than substance. 

"Never Been Kissed" was one of the cuts Rochella previewed to the fans and there is a reason for this. While it's relatively lighter in comparison to the other cuts featured on the album, its gossamer-like sheen is very tight. The repetative chorus solidifies in your mind the pure hookiness of this album, and while its lyrics are a little bit cliche, its so airy and positive, along the lines of Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite album, it's hard not to smile. Hold on to the rays, dolls -- things turn dark quickly.

The Positive Parade is cut short with "Blackout", which is intro-ed with a bit of spoken Russian (a nod to her heritage) before launching into full-on assault of the "night" she spoke of in "Bend the Light". The lyrics are stoic, mostly monotone, before splintering into a ridiculously catchy cascade of a Pre-Chorus/Chorus one-two punch. "I'm Okay" harkens back to her Candy Coated history ("I know you wanna eat"/"I'll fix you up a treat") despite her insistance of independance ("No, I'm Okay/I'm gonna be Okay/Don't need to be nobody's baby/No, thank you/I'm Okay"). There's even a Sasha Fierce reference ("Don't need a ring on it/Just put a thing on it").

This brings us to my immediate favorite track of the entire disc from listen number one -- "Unlove Pill". This stripped down, synthy version of a music box swan song stands out stark and true for being the sole ballad, the one shade of dark blue in the 'Rainbow', and arguably lifts the dark veil in its sheer vulnerability and overall control.

I need to un...unlove you
But I...don't know how to
I need something else
But I don't have the will
I need to un...want you
But I...can't undo
What you did to me
And I don't have the will
I need an Unlove Pill

The tinkling cadance of "Pill" spills over into the next track, the duet "Michelle" with friend and generally adored Simon Curtis, before the sizzling back beat launches and whips you into dance-frenzy submission. It becomes instantly recongizable as a Jadion production along the lines of Simon Curtis' "Diablo", "Delusional" or "Fell In Love w/an Android" long before Simon takes the rein at the second verse. 

The Jadion Collective, we'll call them, truly shine in these types of biting pop powerhouse records aiming venom at a particular foe, and that is certainly true here as "Michelle"s chorus is as anthematic as it is lyrically simple (but vocally challenging with the emotionally-laden chant of "Me-shellllll/You need some serious help/Me-shel-el-el-el-elllll/You know you put me through hell"). Simon's appearance is predicably captivating ("You left my heart covered in lacerations/Didn't you see me bleed?"...stunning imagery), and their pairing was hardly a surprise but rather a long-awaited prospect. The two have been friends and cohorts for a long time prior to 8 Bit Heart's "Brainwash" thanks to the aforementioned Jadion; Simon penned the cCc opus "Utopia", and even sang the demo scratch versions to several cCc cuts before they were presented to the group by Jadion himself (most notably, "Angel"). My mind wanders with ponderings for the single treatment for this song, and for its live incarnation...Excuse me while I salivate over that one.

"Ur F*cking Crazy" borders on Ke$ha-like sing-talk sass (however, I mean this with the sweetest intentions, as the song's playfulness quickly wins you over), but takes the prize for one of the cleverest lines on the whole record ("I would say I'll see you later/If you hadn't tattooed your name on my derriere").

As "Baby Doll" gets cued up, you begin to realize the record's almost over, and the common complaint of So Soon? rears its head. "Doll" seems to be Ro's coining for her fans (just as Gaga has Monsters, etc.), as the song itself could serve as Ro's own personal Re-Invention Anthem of her burgeoning adulthood. The verses remind me a bit of Kylie Minogue's "Speakerphone". 

You got me high up on the shelf
Hidden from the rest
Don't wanna be your baby doll no more...
Play with the boys and
Tear up my dress
I just wanna be a real girl
Use my lips to flirt and kiss
That's what I got a mouth for
Don't wanna be your baby doll no more, no more

If this doesn't get the free album equivalent of "the single treatment", I will be one severely pissed "Doll", as it is the pure embodiment of the End of the Rainbow ideal in one punchy, sassy sing-a-long.

The set closes out with the title track, "End of the Rainbow", which features a speech sample of some of Judy Garland's lines from The Wizard of Oz (where obviously the title came from), and works as a fairly accurate sum-up of Rochella's hard work up to this point. Everything isn't necessarily as it seems and life isn't always a fairytale, no matter what Taylor Swift wants to tell you. Often times, those who work the hardest never see the deserved fruit of their labor -- a common source of my ire toward so many of my favorite artists in this fickle pop realm. This is the true proof in the pudding, so to speak, of Rochella's maturation both as a young woman, an artist and as a song-writer -- the end of innocence, the end of believing "what you're told just 'cause they say so." It serves as a great climactic end to the "Bend the Light" set up -- if Rainbow is a dark dancy disco dream, "Rainbow" is the lucid reminder in the morning. 

"Prey to the Beat" (so many layers to that title...I cannot even...) is Rainbow's sparkly encore and final cut. If "End of the Rainbow" is the bitter but anthematic newsflash that you can't always get what you want, "Prey to the Beat" is the consolation party that everyone will want to come to.

Overall, End of the Rainbow serves as a great warmup and introduction to a new, stronger and leaner Rochella Danishei, the pop artist. The strength relies on the songs' sheer stickiness -- while some songs left me more fired up than others, all of the choruses remained in my head in their singability and strength. Her Cherion Pop Influence couldn't be more evident and that works for her in the best of ways. While some of the cuts can come off as posturing, there was a lot we never got to see under Candy Coated Chaos' gleaming veneer, and Rochella is clearly enjoying putting the grit back into pop.

In terms of go-to cuts, "Michelle", "Unlove Pill", "Baby Doll" and "Prey to the Beat" stand out most, but as I stated previously, the album really does flow together quite cohesively. Personally, I'm most excited to see where this yellow brick road of her own creation takes her, and if she's willing to spare me her kick-ass ruby glitter heels. I've been following Rochella's career for almost five dizzying years, and only now am I seeing the true expression of the "Rainbow" after the storms weathered. 

Bravo, Ms. Ro -- we always knew you had it in you. Time to take your bow and enjoy this moment. If this is any indicator, you've clearly only just begun.


Marisela said...


The Rochella Danishei Street Team

Anonymous said...

What a great review. Love this album and the review describes it to the tee. Hope more people realize how incredible it is. Go Ro.

Unknown said...

danishei? is she half japanese? :P

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