Wednesday, December 21, 2011

MIXTAPE: Slept-On Goodies

I spent a good part of 2011 over in Korea (in my headphones at least), which meant I missed out a lot of good stuff that was gasp! sung in English. A lot of it made its way to the ol' iPod, but I lacked the energy or desire to write about it properly through the blog...but that all changes now.

ALEXANDRA STAN - "Mr. Saxobeat"
"Mr. Saxobeat," from 22-year-old Romanian popstar Alexandra Stan, is one of those weird, Euro-dance-floor gushers that somehow finds itself globetrotting and climbing the charts just about everywhere, even though the majority of the folks in the countries where its eaten up have no real clue who the artist who sings it is. Released in Romania late last year, the song then started its global conquest, slaying charts in Spain, France, Norway and Sweden before crossing the Atlantic to chart in Canada before America decided it kinda liked it too, peaking in the 20's on the Hot 100 mid-year. The song remains a mainstay on the Dance Charts (and the clubs), infectious due to its "odd" combo of a Eurodance and a blaring saxophone (obviously). All it took was me hearing it once, and I was suddenly hooked on the "Saxobeat". Embedding of the video was disabled by her label (glare), but 40 million YouTube hits don't lie...

I'll be honest. When I first heard of Breathe Carolina late last year, I would often get them confused with Swedish rock group Carolina Liar. ::shakes head:: They could not be more different. Sounding like a likeable fusion of Metro Station, Cobra Starship and LMFAO, "Blackout" is the lead release from the indie electro duo's third album release, Hell Is What You Make It. Despite being released in my birthday month of June, "Blackout" has hung around on the Hot 100 and Dance Charts, proving its staying power as a fun party jam. Heavy on the AutoTune and synth, it's the perfect warm up for clubs and is unarguably the group's most commercially-friendly single release period.

OH LAND - "White Nights"
Danish pop singer/songwriter Oh Land first saw her American breakthrough in early 2011 with the single "Sun of a Gun," off her sophomore album, Oh Land, leading to an opening slot for Sia and on Katy Perry's California Dreams Tour (as much as I want to dislike Perry, she has such a matching taste in music to mine -- Robyn, Marina & The Diamonds, Florence + the Machine, not to mention her support of KPOP). It was a good representation of Oh Land's current style: a mixture of darker, heavy dance pop and sunny, snappy, radio pop. The entire album is fantastic, but I'm very partial to "White Nights". If you dig more avante-garde, slightly right of center pop a la the artists mentioned in this blurb above, you need to give Oh Land a listen. Check out this vid of her performing "White Nights" live.

MINDLESS BEHAVIOR - "Mrs. Right" (feat. Diggy Simmons)
America has slim pickings when it comes to boy bands at the moment, hence the morphing of the boy band sound to something more akin to what's happening in the Mainstream Top 40 at the moment. Enter Mindless Behavior, a four-piece much akin to what B2K was trying to do in the early 00's. I saw the boys perform live opening up for Janet Jackson this past summer and couldn't help but be impressed by their palpable stage presence. I may be out of their key demographic (all four of them aren't even old enough to drive yet), but I guess I'm never too old to be swayed by a slick boy band with charisma and they have that down pat. First single "My Girl" was a little too cheesetastic for me to swallow (yes, really -- don't give me that look), but "Mrs. Right" has an X-Factor about it that makes me wanna keep hitting replay despite its relative monotone. There is no question they are marketing themselves the right way, as they are dominating and milking the social media aspect for all its worth (as they should). More proof that the folks at Interscope really know what their doing...And yes, that is LL Cool J as their schoolteacher. Do you feel old?

WYNTER GORDON - "Till Death"
I've been a fan of dance-pop goddess Wynter Gordon since late 2008, getting stoked after hearing her demos, especially "Survelliance" and "Unify". She wrote cuts for Danity Kane's sophomore set and Jennifer Lopez's Love?, and was featured on Flo Rida's Top 5 hit "Sugar" and David Guetta's "Toyfriend". Despite all this, interest in Wynter as a recording artist here in America seems to be just in a club setting. She released her debut album, With the Music I Die, on my birthday (June 17th) worldwide (except in America & the UK), and a short-form EP version was released in the US shortly thereafter, on the back of the sex romp "Dirty Talk" and this disco-esque stomper "Till Death", where the set takes its name from. Third single, "Buy My Love" currently sits at #2 on the US Dance Charts.

BETH DITTO - "I Wrote the Book"
In early 2011, Beth Ditto decided to take a break from the awesomeness she spouted as frontwoman of Gossip to collaborate on a solo dalliance with Simian Mobile Disco. The four song set, titled simply Beth Ditto EP, sees Beth's larger than life voice in a more controlled setting and oozes with 80's/early 90's dance pop goodness. Simply put, the EP is about an hour too short. Lead single "I Wrote the Book" is dark and melancholy set to an unrelenting dance beat ("Revenge, Regret...Forgive, Forget...Keeping Secrets/I wrote the book on it/Don't test me"). The video is an homage to Madonna in her "Vogue"/"Justify My Love" era. Sly "Good Night Good Morning" is deeply reminiscent musically of  Tina Turner's "I Can't Stand the Rain". "Open Heart Surgery" is the boldest of the four, metaphorically descripting healing from heartbreak via "surgery". Handclappy "Do You Need Someone" really shows off her vocal scope -- and in a much more controlled way than we've ever witnessed before with her Gossip releases. Like the majority of the blogosphere, I'm longing for Beth's return to this style of music as she does it so well. One good aspect is this: no matter how often you spin all four cuts, they never get old.

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