Sweden is the epicenter of pop perfection. This is a fact that will never change.
Case in point: Moto Boy, and his album released today, Lost in the Call.
Moto Boy’s mournful coos and falsetto cries are nothing if not captivating, at times evoking Morrissey‘s sad, solemn delivery (“When My Heart Was High”); at others a cross between a less theatrical Rufus Wainwright and a deeper voiced JÃ³nsi Birgisson (“A Different Kind of Love”).
Recorded in MalmÃ¶, Sweden, the ten romantic, haunting numbers of Lost in the Call ache with lump-in-throat emotion, including the moving “If Only Your Bed Could Cry,” (which was originally released with Titiyo last year). At other times, the record bursts forth with jubilant defiance and hope, as with lead single “The Heart is a Rebel.”
“I wish that I could always feel the way I feel tonight,” the singer nearly whispers above the lush strings of the final track, “The Way I Feel Tonite,” a nearly instrumental closer that recalls the magic flowing through BjÃ¶rk‘s Vespertine.
Complete with sweeping, magestic melodies that bristle with a pop sensibility, Lost in the Call is a warm collection of sounds both entrancing and romantic. For the bright-eyed pop lovers and late night dreamers, this album is an absolute must.
The Family Jewels is the debut album by Marina and the Diamonds (real name Marina Diamandis–see what she did there?).
Having just been named the #2 “One to Watch” on the BBC’s prestigious Sound of 2010 list, Marina is about to endure a great deal of scrutiny and criticism under the magnifying glass of the English press with the album’s release on February 22. But is she worth the dreaded hype?
Marina’s full, throaty delivery style has the ability to quickly divide her supporters from her detractors, meshing Regina Spektor‘s quirk and Fiona Apple‘s angst with a heavily theatrical flair. Never one to shy from over-enunciation, Marina tackles the bulk of her debut with a bold, brassy delivery and a dizzying array of instrumentation and sound.
The formula works wonderfully for the most part, as with the gorgeous, slow building “Obsessions” and the electro-bubbly contemplation of “Are You Satisfied?”Occasionally though, the album suffers from becoming all too much (and shrill), as evidenced by “Hermit the Frog,” a jumpy, quirky piano and strings-led number that sounds as though Marina is recalling the tale of her deflowering whilst spinning around a carousel filled with Broadway singers and marching band members.
The highlights of Jewels that shine brightest reside in its beginning and end, including “Oh No!”, “Shampain” and “Rootless,” a rewarding, slower moment of choral coos and ample amounts of harpsichord: “Running with my roots pulled up / Caught me cold so they could cut / What there was left of love / I’m rootless, I’m rootless.” Though just as ‘epic’-sounding as the rest of the album, it’s a much needed comedown from the occasionally overwhelming production.
If there’s a major criticism to be made about this album, it’s not the music, but rather the messages behind them. Lyrically, The Family Jewels offers a strange, if not inconsistent array of tales. “I know exactly what I want and who I want to be / I know exactly why I walk and talk like a machine / I’m now becoming my own self-fulfilled prophecy,” Marina announces in the delightfully explosive “Oh No!,” only seven songs after the seemingly contradictory “I Am Not A Robot.”
As with many of the songs that simultaneously fete and belittle the impossible dreams of fame and beauty such as “Girls” and “Hollywood,” Marina’s bouts of maniacal lyricism and celebrations of excess (“I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America”) too often position the singer as an unreliable narrator. We’re never entirely sure just who or what she’s singing about and, by the end, left wondering whether anything being sung is even sincere in the first place.
Then again, if the occasional contradiction in pop music were important, Lady “I hate money!” Gaga would be nowhere, money honey.
Marina’s debut is full of infectious melodies, bright sounds and fresh, delicious hooks. Even if the album as a whole may be a bit too much to tolerate in one spin, it’s not hard to see that there are more than just a few gems hidden in this box of Jewels.
Soldier of Love, Sade‘s first studio album in over ten years, comes sandwiched in between two rather auspiciously timed events: heavy blizzards and Valentine’s Day. What else should be softly playing in the background than the warm, romantic layers of a Sade record?
The musical influences found on this record stretch far across genres and countries–from the aching piano balladry of “Morning Bird,” to the reggae-tinged melodies of “Babyfather” and country twang of “Be That Easy,” to the undefinable surprise in songs like “Bring Me Home,” which waltzes between a modern hip-hop groove, a pensive guitar strum, solemn chants and deep hums.
As she touches on throughout the album with the soldier motif, Sade Adu has been through plenty in the past few years: “My heart has been a lonely warrior before” she notes in the album’s final few seconds on “The Safest Place.” There’s hurt, there’s sorrow, there’s love and pain. But above all, there are stories that transcend conventional radio-ready pop tales. As Sade notes of this new release, “I only make records when I feel I have something to say. I’m not interested in releasing music just for the sake of selling something. Sade is not a brand.”
More often, Sade’s icy vocals are merged with the sweetest of sounds as with “Skin,” one of the slinkiest numbers. “Now as I begin to wash you off my skin / I’m gonna peel you away / ‘Cause you’re not right within,” Adu sadly coos as the smooth, creamy texture of the track washes in and out of the stratosphere.
Sensual. Devastating. Searching, Inspiring. Each track of the album carries its own wide array of emotion and sound, neither contemporary nor classic, reminding us that good music–true, real music, will always withstand the test of time.
While we may not hear from the band for another ten years (please don’t do it again!), Sade have granted us a record in Soldier of Love that stands to fend for itself and march forward for years to come.
It’s difficult to appreciate Heidi Montag as a human being.
At first glance, she isn’t much more than your typical blonde bimbo socialite; a plastic Barbie making bank from a talentless role on a “reality” show gallivanting around L.A. to fill the narcissistic need for attention like a spray-tanned crack addict with a flesh-color beard creeper of a husband.
But there’s another side to her–a weird one: Her personality is fragmented and strange, bouncing from the hyperbolic fame whore staging fake, elaborate photo-ops for the paparazzi and claiming her album to be on par with Michael Jackson‘s Thriller, to the self-effacing, D-List embracing character portrayed in “Overdosin’,” to a pseudo born-again conservative Christian spouting off 140-characters-or-less bible verses on Twitter with one hand and signing off on photo stills for her Playboy spread with the other.
Not unlike Sarah Palin, Heidi Montag is either a comedic genius or an air-headed blowhole. It is possible that she may be a combination of both. For a while, I thought she could be the Antichrist.
And now, after endless unnecessary EP releases and a doofy, worm-like performance at the 2009 Miss Universe Pageant that seemed like a PG reinterpretation of Britney‘s 2000 VMA performance, we have Superficial, a gift that truly keeps on giving.
One couldn’t stand to write a review of Superficial without first exploring the “vocals”: The work done on Heidi’s voice is, if nothing else, astounding. While many rich, socialite brats and mega pop stars–yes, even my beloved Britney!–are no strangers to Auto-Tune (I’ve been told that the pitch correction for Paris Hilton‘s debut took over eight months alone), Heidi’s digital reconstruction is downright impressive.
It seems that not only can Heidi not sing (at all), but that the engineers couldn’t even stand to allow an instance of her true voice on the album without first melting it down with pitch-assisting, machine sound for a single second. At least Paris Hilton could command a lazy, if not a slightly sultry whisper: Heidi doesn’t even get the option of breathing on this mess.
That being said, Heidi spent a reported cool $2 million on this album to get the finest in the industry, and that she did: With songwriting credits from Cathy Dennis, Steve Morales and Chris Rojas, Superficial has a slew of songs that are well-written and, in theory, are quite good.
“Look How I’m Doing” and “Turn Ya Head” are delicious guilty pleasures, providing thick, dance-worthy synths piled atop Montag’s verses to the point where the lyrics are barely intelligable. Further on, “More is More” is about as close to a genuine hit as Heidi comes on the album, meshing a naughty chorus (“More is more on the dancefloor, it’s fucking chaos in here”) with a vaguely addictive synthesized beat.
“Twisted” is another delight, reveling in Montag’s toilet paper-thin delivery and manic, computer-controlled pitch changes. It’s actually a pretty well-written song–its only downfall being that it wasn’t released by a real artist first.
In her riskiest move (can I really call it that?), Heidi takes the already hypocrisy-ridden ‘Christian’ side of her persona and drives her values even deeper into the ground with “I’ll Do It.” The song, a slinkier reaction to the album’s mostly hasty offerings, features a handful of awkward come-ons meant to sound enticing (a failed attempt), while simultaneously presenting the album’s greatest lyrics: “I brought some treats / I know that you gon love em /Come eat my panties off of me.”
There are some hilarious, just-plain-bad numbers as well, including “My Parade,” which includes a farty marching band stomp and a truly hellacious set of lyrics about being defiant and young. Picture a balloon slowly deflating while being held by a sad, crying clown–that’s “My Parade” in visual form.
Heidi’s oft-published delusions of grandeur help to solidify this album’s non-genius genius, as in this morsel from EW:
“Most artists, itâ€™s not their own money, but Iâ€™ve actually gone broke putting every dollar Iâ€™ve ever made and my heart and soul into this music. For me, I have a different appreciation, a different understanding, and a different love of my music and for my album than any other artist possibly could.”
If that’s the case–if we are to believe that Heidi’s heart and soul are found here in these songs (none of which having been penned or even co-penned by herself), you’ll learn nothing that you haven’t already on the cover of Star Magazine, aside from the fact that she wears edible undies from time to time.
To be blunt, I don’t think Heidi knows who Heidi is. Fake and real seem to be distinctions that serve no purpose in Heidi’s blurred perception of the world. How she actually wishes to be perceived is an even deeper mystery. She is superficial, and superficiality may be her only reality. So really, the album is actually quite personal and deep when you think about it.
For tongue-in-cheek pop flop enthusiasts like myself, Superficial is truly a goldmine: In all honesty, it’s a fun album. She’s a terrible singer, but there’s a certain cheeky, camp appeal to the whole ordeal.
Surprisingly hooky, hilariously bad and devoid of vocal talent, Superficial is not, as most would expect, an utter train-wreck…it’s just a good ol’ shit show.
“When I woke up, I was like what did I do last night? Like what did I do? I fucked up… story of my life.”
Nicole “Snookums” Polizzi, Jersey Shore
Congratulations…it’s 2010! Who’s ready to drink?
That’s the lasting, ever-present theme of Animal, the long-awaited debut album from Ke$ha. (That’s kesh-uh, like ketchup, not key-shuh, like what I’ve been calling her for almost a year now.)
With a voice that can only be described as belonging to the bratty, rebellious step-sister of Katy Perry and a wardrobe identical to your annoyingly hip cousin who’s ‘over’ consumer culture and shops exclusively at American Apparel, Ke$ha has been toted for some time now as a kind of drunk electro-crap pop protege in the making.
But before we get ahead of ourselves and start praising her as the mainstream answer to Peaches or Uffie, let the record show: Ke$ha is just too squeaky-clean to be anything even close to dirrty pop. Sure, she’ll wear ripped leggings out on the town, hobble ’round drunk on stage with glitter smeared on her face and shout into a megaphone like an ass-backwards loon, but at the end of the day, she’s still a pretty face (with an interest in collaborating with Taylor Swift, as evidenced in this fairly annoying mini-interview).
However, even if she isn’t really spewing blood or punching dudes for sticking their fingers up her hoo-hah while crowd surfing, Ke$ha’s still here for the party on Animal.
With “Your Love Is My Drug” and “Tik Tok,” the “Poker Face” and “Just Dance” of the album respectively, K$ revels in the excesses of pop at its finest. Exuberant, punchy, irreverent–the two songs are the quintessential ‘dancing the night away’ moments of the album, complete with fist-pump worthy choruses and glitchy, gleeful synthesizers that merge fun, kid-friendly beats with the all-important album theme of substance abuse. (The result of which lends itself to literally dozens and dozens of uncomfortable tweenage video reinterpretations, complete with water bottle sippin’ and faux-drunk gyrating.)
Later on, with songs like “Take it Off” and “Kiss N Tell,” Ke$ha keeps the Katy Perry pronunciation guide close at hand for another round of drink-inspired jubilee. If you close your eyes and ignore the awful, skin-crawling over-enunciation of each syllable (“we’re duh-lee-ree-uss-suh, ’til the sun comes back uh-rah-ow-und”), the song’s are almost as fun as the two lead tracks, though inconsistently so: Some days they’re amazing, others simply unlistenable. It all depends on how loud and where you’re playing them.
It’s too bad that the plug gets pulled so soon.
Just as the party’s getting started, K$ takes it back to the schoolyard with a few truly dire attempts includingÂ “Stephen,” a sloppy ode to a boy performed with an irritating, giggly schoolgirl sweetness. “I saw you in your tight ass rocker pants / You saw me too / I laughed ’cause I was completely trashed.” If the tuneless chorus isn’t enough to kill your buzz, the embarrassing ‘this is meant to be ironically immature’ lyricism will finish the job.
Later on, Ke$ha’s childish side is only further exploited with the likes of “Dinosaur,” which doubles as the worst song of 2010 thus far. The wimpy spell-out assault, meant to put the old men creeping around clubs on blast (“D-I-N-O-S-A, U-R a dinosaur!”), is so obnoxious, so incomprehensibly basic that it makes Gwen Stefani‘s “Hollaback Girl” (“This shit is bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S”) sound refined.
As songs like “Dinosaur” come to show, one of the biggest drawbacks of Animal is its snotty Kidz Bop-friendly attitude. Back during the summer, when a slew of demos from the singer first leaked, standout tracks including “Disgusting,” “Fuck Him (He’s A DJ)” and “V.I.P.,” (which has mercifully been tacked on as a bonus track overseas) provided a glimmer of hope that Ke$ha was to become our new rude-pop savior. The songs were much grimier, complete with naughty come-on’s and more genuinely clever lyrics (“He’s a stereo type / He’s got the baseball cap and he’s building the hype, as he’s feeding me this hot track / You see, we share the same God, we’ve got the same love / I never want to stop, I don’t want to give him up.”) Now? We’ve got trash like “Blah Blah Blah.”
Not all of the girly girl tracks are worth the hate, though: The strut-worthy prowl of “Boots and Boys” and the deliciously bitchy “Backstabber” are both redeemable bouts of escapist delight.
The time when Ke$ha truly, legitimately shines best is when she drops the baby routine and acts her own age: “Hungover,” “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes,” and “Animal” are all miles ahead of the pack, featuring anthemic pop hooks and devastating choruses. The most successful of all of the grown-up numbers is “Blind,” which ties a minimal, plodding synthesized beat together with one hell of a Clarkson-worthy chorus: “I’m sick and tired of the mess you made me / Never gonna catch me cry / You must be blind if you can’t see / You’ll miss me ’til the day you die.”
The bleary-eyed, post-party numbers are much smarter than the surrounding material, and far more representative of Ke$ha’s ability to be more than just a one bottle wonder–which makes duds like “Party at a Rich Dude’s House” all the more difficult to swallow.