No Gravity is, in many ways, a fitting title for a record so lacking in terms of marketing.
So much has happened in the world of Shontelle that has restricted the Bajan songstress from being presented in a clear and consistent fashion to a mainstream audience: Release date push backs, little to no PR, a sloppy official website, the release of a single that isn’t even on the album–it’s safe to say the No Gravity campaign was (and is) truly without ties to keep it grounded.
That being said, it’s the music that really matters, and this is a record worth owning.
No Gravity contains an intriguing and seemingly unrelated mix of hit-makers–ranging from Darkchild and The Smeezingtons on the production side to Bruno Mars, Arnthor Birgisson (Britney’s “Out From Under”) and Shontelle herself on the writing side, as well as two features by of-the-minute rappers, Pitbull and Asher Roth.
Despite its lead single being a power ballad (“Impossible,” which managed to climb to #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August), No Gravity is, by and large, an up-tempo pop/dance record–even when least expected.
Case in point: The album opening track (and current/alleged single), “Perfect Nightmare.” Opening as an overwrought piano power ballad, the song is not initially impressive. “Sometimes I hate, sometimes I love, sometimes I hurt, sometimes I don’t,” she croons, resembling a sappy cover of Britney’s already sappy “Sometimes.”
It isn’t until the unexpected leap into its own chorus (“When will I wake up and scream, ‘NO WAY! NO WAY! NO WAY!”) that the song completely throws itself for a loop (and into something amazing), charging into a full-on, four-to-the-floor charging beat that refuses to let go. When all is said and done, “Perfect Nightmare” stands as a completely praise-worthy dance anthem.
While there’s no one song that immediately screams “chart topper,” there’s still plenty to love here, including the thumping “Helpless,” the electric guitar-led break-up ballad “Say Hello to Goodbye” (which oddly brings to mind Joan Osborne‘s “One of Us”), and a personal favorite: “Love Shop.” Like a lightly island-tinged interpretation of Janet Jackson‘s brilliant underrated Disclipline track, “Rock With U,” Shontelle sweetly floats atop a cosmic, electro-tinged beat that flows throughout the track.
Other tracks seem poised to make an impression on the club charts, and certainly have the ability to do so: “Take Ova,” which is shockingly not about the process in vitro fertilization as I’d previously assumed, is perfectly suited to be pumped from the speakers of an overheated club.
“Assume the position, you’re going to have to step into the light,” Shontelle commands atop a hand-clapping, scorching beat. Copy paste any of Pitbull’s verses from one of the song’s he’s been featured on in the past year, and there you have it: IT’S A SMASH.
“DJ Made Me Do It” is another club-worthy anthem. Featuring an inoffensive rap break by last year’s flash in the pan, Asher Roth, the song meshes the carefree modern neo-soul styling of Estelle‘s “American Boy” with a more adventurous, rocky crunch a la N.E.R.D.‘s “She Wants To Move.”
No Gravity contains enough hook-heavy melodies to satisfy the cravings of both casual listeners and pop snobs alike. Even if the album doesn’t quite contain that one hit needed to compete in the impossibly insular world of American radio airwaves (“Impossible–SEE WHAT I DID THERE?), it’s still a strong body of work.
If you haven’t already, give this record a shot–you’ll be glad you did.
No Gravity will be released on September 21.
To preview or purchase music from Shontelle on iTunes including “Impossible,” click here.
Katy Perry is probably the only pop star I could ever feel compelled to deem a “guilty pleasure.”
In my opinion, there are two types of catchy in the world: The one with pop hooks so well-crafted you’ll want them replaying in your head until the end of time (“Umbrella,” “Just Dance”), and then there’s the obvious, derivative kind of catchy that cause you to itch and burn like an STD.
Perry’s productions are often in the latter category. In fact, they sort of like the music equivalent of herpes: Wildly contagious, annoying, and ultimately likely to lead to an intense awkwardness when revealing your condition to lovers and friends.
Take for instance one of the summer’s biggest singles, “California Gurls.” The track is little more than a direct rip of BFF Ke$ha‘s superior drunk-pop anthem, “Tik Tok,” yet it’s managed to thrive nonetheless.
It isn’t always the songs–usually the product of a suite of Swedish pop masterminds–that cause such pangs of guilt and anguish, but rather Perry herself, whose doe-eyed, potty-mouthed persona leaves much to be desired.
Perry’s shtick is obnoxious and, at times, hypocritical. Bolstered by a devoutly religious upbringing (and short-lived run as a Christian rock artist), she has the gall to criticize her fellow pop stars for being blasphemous sluts while simultaneously shooting whipped cream out of her tits and posing topless for Rolling Stone and Esquire.
For me, she’s a hard one to like–let alone to outwardly enjoy in public.
But good pop is good pop, and every now and then, Katy Perry delivers good pop.
This week sees the release of Teenage Dream, Katy Perry’s follow-up to her massively successful 2008 debut, One of The Boys. The album, like the one before, is a veritable “who’s who” of the top pop producers in the game, including Max Martin, Tricky Stewart, Greg Wells, Benny Blanco, Dr. Luke, and Stargate.
The album begins with its title track, which also happens best song of the bunch in terms of songcraft. “Teenage Dream” is not only a masterfully crafted pop tune with a smart hook, but a rare moment of tenderness for the otherwise bratty bombshell: “You think I’m pretty without any makeup on / You think I’m funny when I tell the punchline wrong,” Perry whispers on top of the song’s setting sun guitar strums.
Sure, the lyrics offer a cornucopia of only the most stereotypical lovesick vagueries, but “Teenage Dream” is still an amazing and evocative pop song. At the risk of massacring my reputation (what reputation?), it simply must be said: Listening to this song just makes you want to feel that way about someone.
“Last Friday (T.G.I.F.),” in contrast, feels entirely inauthentic. Much as with Perry’s summer smash, the song is almost a direct lift of everything you’ve already heard off of Ke$ha’s debut released earlier this year, Animal. Say what you will about Ke$ha’s aesthetic (or what she probably smells like), but any and all talk of drunken hook-ups and glitter on the floor are strictly within her domain at the moment. Any other attempt to emulate her drunk-pop revelry? Well, it just comes off sounding cheap.
The slap-happy silliness is pervasive throughout Perry’s record, including the stomping ode to the penis, “Peacock.” Scribed by one of the naughtiest names in popular songwriting at the moment, Ester Dean (“Rude Boy”; “Drop It Low”), “Peacock” is a most infectious, cheer-tastic celebration of the male member hidden behind the thinnest of veils: “Are you brave enough to let me see your peacock? / Don’t be a chicken boy, stop acting like a beeotch.” It’s the most fun offered on the record, even if the schtick wears stale after a few days.
It’s not all cotton candy and cocks, though. In interviews leading up to the release of Teenage Dream, Perry expressed her desire to fill the void of an Alanis Morrissette-like figure in today’s pop market on her next release.
“Circle the Drain” is the result of such desire, one of the album’s most impressive numbers. The song contains the best, most biting lines of the entire record: “Wanna be your lover, not your fucking mother,” Perry explodes with a vitriolic, shaking-with-anger kind of enunciation while exorcising her ex-flame’s demons.
“E.T.” and “Who Am I Living For?” follow along a similarly angst-ridden path. Still, Perry’s self-searching offerings are a bit too modern/major production (excessive instrumentation; squeaky-clean studio sounds) to be dubbed worthy of a Morrissette comparison–even if they dare to bare their teeth more than your standard Kelly Clarkson vengeance-seeking smash.
At best, Teenage Dream is a top heavy collection of party pop anthems and occasionally good, often schmaltzy slow numbers. Perhaps if she left the glitter act to Ke$ha and nixed the soggy ballads clogging up the second half of this record, Perry might have stood to offer something as tasty as her album’s cotton-candy scent. (No, really…the album smells.)
Aside from the occasional moment of sugary sweet brilliance however (“Teenage Dream”; “Firework”), the party balloons deflate rather quickly, resulting in a record that feels about as fluffy as the pink cotton candy swirled around Perry’s naughty bits on the cover.
Everything they’ve said is true.
“The introvert[ed] and darker sibling, who lives in the attic.” “More introspective and freeform than its poppier partner.” “Brimfull with dark secrets and distorted memories.”
All of these are the descriptions being tossed out by RÃ¶yksopp‘s camp in advance of the release of their fourth studio effort, Senior. And for once, a band’s press releases are entirely hyperbole free.
In stark contrast to the album’s companion piece–Junior, one of 2009′s greatest releases–Senior is entirely instrumental, brooding, for the most part, quite moody.
The noises used to build the album are dusty, weathered and strange; not unlike what you’d find rummaging through the boxes buried deep in some hidden nook at home. Each song creaks and crinkles with a vintage feel that’s both organic and supernatural, lending itself to that same magical energy behind each of RÃ¶yksopp’s productions.
On “Senior Living,” steel guitars mash together breathlessly with an angelic choir, sad strings, and twinkling electronica. “The Drug” blends muted ’90′s house synths with a trip-hop beat and occasionally jarring electro-interferences. “Coming Home” sees the world floating away on a dreamy, lush soundscape far into outer space–all set to the beat of a ceaseless metronome.
Truthfully though, it’s a bit pointless to point out “highlights” from the album. As the duo have stressed in the very slow promotion for this album’s release, this is an instrumental album, meant to be consumed all in one go.
It’s not a collection of stompers and ballads, and it’s probably the group’s least commercially appetizing offering thus far. That, however, does not take away from the album’s production value, which is nothing less than superb.
Fans will be pleased to know that the signature RÃ¶yksopp sound–the melancholy melodies and cyclical rhythms that have come to color each one of the duo’s releases ever since Melody A.M.–is still alive and well here, albeit buried under all the strange miscellanea.
Take for instance “Tricky Part Two,” which uses the instrumental from their 2009 album track “Tricky Tricky” (featuring Karin Dreijer) and morphs it into an even more complicated composition, incorporating elements of dance and electro-pop by the song’s end.
Even some of the band’s signature sounds from their debut make appearances here, as the light electronica flares from songs like “So Easy,” “Eple” and “Sparks” make brief cameos in tracks like “Forsaken Cowboy.”
While the Nordic duo have always had a knack for delivering songs with killer stories (“The Girl and The Robot,” “What Else Is There?”), they’ve managed to go a step further with Senior by proving that they can still supply narratives simply through music: “The Alcoholic” certainly seems to tell the tell of its namesake as a demented, drunken synthesizer waves and warbles its way through the countryside. No really, you can visualize it. Just listen to those birds chirping! And the rain!
In the end, Senior only aids in proving RÃ¶yksopp to be one of the innovative musical acts on the scene. They can churn out crunchy, sophisticated pop confections (“Only This Moment”), but they can just as easily evoke emotion through sound and sound alone.
For all info on the upcoming release of Senior, click here.
On June 28, following a four year hiatus, the Scissor Sisters unveiled their third studio effort, Night Work.
Darker and more cohesive than either of the Scissors’ past two efforts, Night Work is a masterfully executed, sleekly polished glimpse into the excess and depravity of 1970′s disco nightlife–all without ever hazarding the treacherous territory of homage.
Produced by Stuart Price, Night Work also doubles as the perfect disco-laden compliment to the summer’s best album: Kylie Minogue‘s Aphrodite (which just happens to be produced by Mr. Price as well–I bet someone’s having a good summer!)
The album largely revels in a barrage of dirty bass lines and guitar riffs from Babydaddy and Del Marquis, glitchy synthesizers and front-man Jake Shears‘ pitch-perfect falsetto, which provides the vocal backing behind the album’s massive glam-rock anthems (“Fire With Fire”) and dark disco haunts (“Night Work”).
Though the album dives into darker territory, there’s plenty of the Scissor Sisters’ signature camp style buried within the record.
Take for instance “Any Which Way,” a glee-filled romp that finds Ana Matronic playing the sex-starved temptress mid-way through and cooing about finding a man that smells like “cocoa butter and cash.” “Take me anyway you like it / In front of the fireplace, in front of your yacht, in front of my parents / I don’t give a damn, baby–just take me!” she shrieks. It’s silly, it’s naughty, and above all, it’s irresistible.
Don’t believe me? Just try to watch their Glastonbury performance of the track (with a special cameo by a certain pop princess). I defy you not to crack a smile.
Songs like the slinky “Skin This Cat” operate as further evidence that the Sisters have evolved their sound. The melodies here are vastly sexier than previous efforts, even if the lyrics provide enough of a knowing wink wink, nudge nudge to keep you giggling: “You’re not the first tom to walk my floor / So get around the block a few times more / And keep scratch scratchin’ at my back door / And I will show you.”
Further on, several cuts show off Shears’ darker side, including the stomping “Harder You Get” and “Sex & Violence,” which burns with an icy intensity and deranged flares of old school synthesizers: “Oh, I need a witness, to see the mess I’ve made,” Shears devilishly purrs. “Where do you live? What do you give? Who are you with? And how you getting home?” Glam, sex, and murderous intent…a personal favorite, for sure.
But perhaps no track best embodies the album’s true essence than with its final moment: “Invisible Light,” an immense, wildly celebratory six-minute opus of dark disco euphoria.
By the time Ian McKellan delivers his spot-on spoken word about “sexual gladiators” and “fiercely old party children,” the track is already bursting at the seams, at last unleashing wave upon wave of sublime coos and pulsating, tribal beats that come together in one gorgeous moment of frantic bliss.
If there’s any word to describe the Sisters’ latest output, it’s evocative: Of Grace Jones, of bell bottoms and gold chains, of the sweat and grime and filth of a dirty New York City disco.
And that’s what I call a proper night out.
To celebrate the album’s release, MuuMuse is proud to be giving away SIX COPIES of Night Work. send me an e-mail with the subject line “NIGHTWORK” or tweet me with the following phrase: “I found a whole new way to love @MuuMuse! #NightWork”
Six winners will be randomly selected and notified on Tuesday, July 27. Good luck!
To preview and purchase Night Work, click here.
As you may or may not have heard, a lot of people are getting all butt-hurt about M.I.A.‘s ‘Internet-inspired’ new record because it is a very noisy, very obvious rebel-against-the-rebels reactionary piece.
It is also kind of bad.
The album’s heavy reliance upon noisy sirens and over-driven guitar licks means that sometimes the songs will literally hurt your ears. She intentionally sings badly.The songs are not very danceable. And bad news for hipster douches: You’re not going to find a “Paper Planes” sequel here.
Nonetheless, there’s something sort of charming to me about this release.
I enjoy the tribal flow and lyrics of “Lovalot,” the anti-club banging, machine gun blaring appeal of “Steppin’ Up,” and I’m utterly obsessed with the carnal, pumping energy of “Meds & Feds.” I even kind of love “Born Free,” the Sri Lankan singer’s moderately successful attempt at producing her own punk anthem.
Sure, it’s no Arular–but it’s still got its perks here and there.
To celebrate the release, MuuMuse is proud to be giving away ONE VINYL COPY of M.I.A.’s new record, / \ / \ / \ Y / \.
A winner will be notified and selected on Friday, July 23. Good luck!