Bjork Releases “Voltaic” CD/DVD Set

July 1, 2009 by Jeanne  

Iceland’s musical princess, Bjork, is one of those artists that you will either love or hate and I happen to adore her.  Post, which was released in 1995, is probably one of my favorite albums of all time and her performance in Dancer in the Dark was nothing short of amazing (as was the soundtrack) – she even won the “Best Actress” award at the 200 Cannes Film Festival.

Yesterday she released the Voltaic CD/DVD set which is a compilation of live recordings from her Volta tour at the Olympic Studios, in Paris and in Reykjavik. 

Disc 1 features 11 audio tracks including “Army of Me,” “Hunter” and “Vertebrae by Vertebrae” among others.  Disc 2 consists of 21 video performances. 

If you’re looking for new material from Bjork, you might be in for a long wait.  During an interview with Pitchfork in October 2008, the singer said that it would probably take her three or four years to come out with her next album. 

I’m glad she’s taking her time with it.  I know that Debut (1993), Post (1995) and Homogenic (1997) were released in quick succession but it took her four years after that to release Vespertine (2001), three more years to put out Medulla (2004) and then another three years for Volta (2007).  She also had her daughter Isadora in 2002 so I’m sure she took a little longer because she was spending time with her new baby (she also has a son named Sindri who is 23 years old). 

Either way, I wouldn’t want her to rush since she’s such a unique artist.  She’ll know when the time is right to put another album out there.

image: Amazon

Keri Hilson, M.I.A. and Jazmine Sullivan Win BET Awards

June 29, 2009 by Jeanne  

Keri Hilson won in the “Best New Artist” category at last night’s BET Awards.  It’s been a great year for Hilson.  After years of working behind the scenes and writing music for artists like Britney Spears, Ciara and Usher, she finally broke out and started her own solo career.

image: Zuma Press

Her first album, In a Perfect World… debuted on March 24, 2009 and, so far, she has released four singles –”Energy,” “Return the Favor” (feat. Timbaland), “Turnin’ Me On” (feat. Lil Wayne) and “Knock You Down” (feat. Ne-Yo) which has been her most successful song, reaching #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

M.I.A. won for “Best Female Hip Hop Artist” and Jazmine Sullivan took home the “Centric Award.”

Regina Spektor Releases New Album “Far”

June 24, 2009 by Jeanne  

Regina Spektor is back after her 2006 album Begin to Hope was named one of Rolling Stone’s Top 50 albums of 2006.  Her follow-up effort, Far, was released this week and I think that she’s done an incredible job.

I don’t know if I have seen another artist combine styles and musical textures in the way that Spektor does but she manages to do it masterfully. 

It’s pretty much impossible to classify her music since there are so many influences but she has been involved with the anti-folk movement in New York City and could easily be considered indie pop but, if I’m being honest, she really is in a genre all of her own.

She goes from an upbeat tune like “The Calculation” (which could easily be used in some commercial for cell phones) to being more vulnerable on “Human of The Year” follow by an the inclusion of dolphin sounds on “Folding Chair.”

My favorite track is “Machine” which sounds bleak and almost futuristic but still features a classical music infused piano part.  It’s so bizarre and the chords are so dark but it works somehow.

All of the lyrics are absolutely incredible and they betray her Spektor’s unique way of seeing the world around her.  The amount of control that she has over her vocals is nothing short of impressive especially when you hear the chorus from “Dance Anthem of the 80s.”  She’s an amazing sing, she’s an outstanding pianist and is the personification of the word artist.  I would recommend this album highly. 

image: Amazon

Kate Voegele “99 Times” Video

June 24, 2009 by Jeanne  

You might know Kate Voegele best for her recurring role on CW’s One Tree Hill.  On the show, she plays Mia Catalano, a young singer and keyboardist and has performed songs from her real-life debut album, Don’t Look Away.  While she’s expected to return to Hill this August, she’s also been busy in the studio.

Kate has released the video for her song “99 Times” from her album, A Fine Mess, which was released on May 18, 2009.  I actually really like the song despite the fact that it’s got a predictable pattern and chord progression (although the bass line gets a little more interesting towards the end).  I find her tone surprisingly rich for this type of track and I hope that people can separate the TV star from the artist because I think she’s got some talent.

The song details your standard guy/girl problems with Kate emerging stronger after being lied to “99 Times.”  Maybe it’s an answer to Jay-Z “99 Problems.”  Um… yeah, probably not.

Anyway, check out the video.  It’s simple but effective enough.

image: Amazon

Mary J. Blige and Keri Hilson Working With Chris Brown

June 20, 2009 by Jeanne  

Both seasoned veteran, Mary J. Blige, and up-and-comer, Keri Hilson, have been working with Chris Brown on some new music. 

Curiously, Mary J’s new single is called “Stronger” and the lyrics are, of course, all about emerging from some dark times with the support of a loved one.  I know that some people have been wondering why she would choose to work with him now – they are such an odd pairing and he’s still facing assault charges for allegedly attacking his girlfriend, Rihanna.  I understand what she’s doing.  Mary J. has been through some tough times of her own and she attributes her successful and ability to overcome her struggles to the love and support of her husband and the good friends in her life.  I think that she’s trying to do the same for Chris Brown. 

The song is okay.  I’m not sure that it’s finished being mixed but it’s a little stark and very bland compared with Mary J’s usual sound.  There’s not too much of Chris Brown in it so I’d barely call it a collaboration.  Listen to the song here and tell me what you think:

Meanwhile, Keri Hilson told E! Online the following:  "He [Chris Brown] contacted me like four or five days ago.  Us working together will probably be the first project I’ve worked on as a songwriter in a while."  Of course, this is more of a natural fit than the song with Mary J because Keri and Chris as closer in age, at similar points in their careers and have worked together in the past. 

Keri also had some optimistic things to say about the future of Chris’ career:  "It is unfortunate what they are going through, but I always feel like if you’ve ever had a fan base, you’re really only one song away from appeasing that fan base.  Whether that song is autobiographical or whether you want to talk about that or not, you’re just one hit song away. And that’s what I think of the industry in a nutshell."

Is Mariah Carey Changing Her Style Too Much?

June 16, 2009 by Jeanne  

Mariah Carey is back in the studio and is working on her upcoming album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, which will be released on August 25, 2009.  I’m looking forward to hearing all of it because the first single Obsessed” has me feeling a lot more optimistic (although the way she uses autotune reminds me of Jamie Foxx’s song “Blame it on the Alcohol.”  Mariah said that it’s one of her “favorite songs ever” and that she loves “the whole album” on Twitter but we’ll have to wait to see what her fans think.

I’ve been following Mariah’s career since I saw her featured as a promising new artist on BET.  That was almost twenty years ago and her journey from then until now was mostly smooth until she suffered an emotional breakdown.

Her 1990 debut album, Mariah Carey, produced hits like “Vision of Love” and “Someday” and established her as a talented artist with a unique range (those high notes made her instantly recognizable).  She followed up the effort with Emotions (1991), an MTV Unplugged Album (1992) and the hugely successful Music Box (1993) and Daydream (1995). 

During this time, she was being being managed by Columbia Records executive, Tommy Mottola, whom she described as controlling since he didn’t want her to be overly sexual or to wear revealing clothing.  Of course, the situation wasn’t helped by the fact that she was married to the man from 1993-1998. 

The effects of the split were immediately obvious when Mariah released the video for “Honey” which was the first track off of her 1997 album, Butterfly.  She had clearly had plastic surgery (cheeks, breasts, etc…) and the video (featuring Puff Daddy and Mase) was probably her sexiest to date.  I won’t even go into how sensual and haunting “My All” was/is so, if her goal was to unveil a brand-new Mariah, she succeeded.

Her seventh studio album, Rainbow (1999), is my favorite (okay, maybe it’s tied with Butterfly) and was the most hip-hop influenced music she’d ever released.  She found a way to combine her amazing vocals with rhymes by Snoop Dog, Jay-Z and Joe and it just worked.  If I’m going on a long road trip, I always pack this album and, as was the case with all of her previous albums, I was left begging for more.

Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse for Mariah.  Despite all of her success, there were reports that Mariah had suffered a physical and emotional breakdown after an ugly separation from Columbia Records (she ended up signing with EMI’s Virgin Records).  It seemed like, all of a sudden, Mariah was complaining about being overworked and started acting strangely.  During an infamous appearance on MTV’s Total Request Live, she actually started handing out popsicles to the audience and began performing what looked like a strip tease.  I don’t think anyone was shocked when she checked into a hospital within days. 

As if fate was looking to kick her while she was down, her semi-autobiographical film, Glitter, basically bombed at the box-office (and with critics) as did the soundtrack.  By the time her 2002 album, Charmbracelet, rolled around, I was almost convinced that her career was over.  It was so bad that I couldn’t even bring myself to buy a copy.   I was significantly buoyed, however, by her duet with Busta Rhymes, “I Know What You Want” since I thought it was her best effort in a while. 

In 2005, she released the The Emancipation of Mimi and I know that it was popular and was her best-selling album in the U.S. since Daydream but I just never liked it.   I thought that the songs (“It’s Like That,” “We Belong Together” and “Shake It Off”) were catchy enough but just lacked the power and level of difficulty I had come to associate with Mariah’s music.   I guess you could say the same thing about her follow-up effort, E=MC2.  Seriously, who can’t sing “Touch My Body?”  It was all so commercial, lazy and gimmicky in my opinion.

Now, after listening to the leaked version of her new single “Obsessed,” I find myself confused yet again.  On Twitter she said: "So"Obsessed" is an uptempo fun summer record. We were gonna go w/the ballad 1st but don’t worry,its coming. I tried to make something… For all who love Butterfly, and even older albums, but "Obsessed" has to come out 1st, asap!! Its different for me,but clearly,its SO me!”

It’s very different from her last two albums and I like the chord progression.  It’s still not the powerhouse song I was hoping she’d release and with the addition of autotune it feels like she’s singing even less than she has in the past five years.

I can’t embed the audio clip but you can listen to it here.  Come back and tell me what you think!

images: Zuma Press/Amazon

Paradiso Girls Ft. Lil Jon and Eve “Patron Tequila”

June 16, 2009 by Jeanne  

The Paradiso Girls have released the music video for “Patron Tequila” featuring Lil Jon and Eve.  Before I talk about the song, I thought I’d take a moment to give you a little background on this quintet.

The Paradiso Girls are like the United Nation of girl bands since each of the five women is from a different country - Barbados, England, France, Philippines, and the U.S.  I think that this adds a little something extra to their style and vocals.  The group is signed with will.i.am music/Interscope Records and I think they could become very popular.

“Patron Tequila” was produced by Polow da Don and is the perfect track for night out at the clubs (even to listen to with your windows down on your way to the club).  When you add Lil Jon and Eve to the mix, you’ve got an anthem in the making.

The video is also a lot of fun.  By the end of it, I guarantee you’ll be singing along to the hook.  The lyrics are pretty funny too.  Check it out:

image: Total Assault

New Music: Oksana Grigorieva “Say My Name”

June 15, 2009 by Jeanne  

Have you heard the new single of Oksana Grigorieva?  She is a new artist who is probably best known for currently being pregnant by actor Mel Gibson (the relationship was made public just about two weeks after Mel’s wife, Robyn, filed for a divorce) although she was in a relationship (and had a child with) former James Bond actor, Timothy Dalton.

Pregnancy aside, Oksana has been working on another labor of love – her upcoming album Beautiful Heartbreak.  I will admit that I have not heard any of the Russian-born singer/pianist’s earlier work but I did listen to her first single “Say My Name.”

Of the track, Oksana told People: It is the first and one of the simplest songs on the album, but also one of the most intimate.  It is naked, intimate, raw emotion, little more than piano and voice as if it is a cry from the soul.”  The 39-year-old beauty is from Saransk, Russia and wrote every song on the album although Mel helped pen the lyrics for “Say My Name” (she is currently signed to Mel’s Icon Records label).

After listening to the song, I have to say that I’m not overly impressed.  I think that, in theory, it could be a pretty tune but I find her voice pretty annoying and whiny and unnecessarily breathy, especially during the verses. 

You can listen to the song on www.oksana.fm where you can actually download the song for free.  If you like what you hear, I encourage you to bookmark the page and check back often since there will be more free downloadable content in the coming weeks.

Charice Releases Single “Note To God”

June 11, 2009 by Jeanne  

Seventeen-year-old Filipino superstar, Charice, became a household name after Oprah introduced her to the world.  I remember sitting on my couch in shock as I watched the episode called “The Most Talented Girl in the World.”  Charice does not only possess one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard but she brings a strength to her music and performances that is nothing short of extraordinary given her young age.

image: Total Assault

Now, she has released her own single “Note to God” and I really think it is a beautiful song which was written by Grammy Award-winning songwriter, Diane Warren, and produced by the legendary David Foster (those are some big names to be working with.  I’m so happy for her!).

It’s a very emotional track and her delivery is incredible.  I truly believe that she’s got a big career ahead of her and I’m very interested to hear what’s on her upcoming studio album which will be released by 143/Reprise Records sometime this fall.

In the meantime, you can check out her live performance of “Note to God” on Oprah.  By the end of it, the members of the audience were on their feet.  Amazing!

Britney Spears Embarking on First Australian Tour

June 10, 2009 by Jeanne  

Britney Spears has been riding high on her very successful “The Circus Starring Britney Spears” tour and, right after confirming that she will be traveling through North America one more time, Billboard is reporting that the singer will be heading to Australia for the firs time in her career.  “I’ve wanted to tour Australia for quite some time and now it’s finally happening,” Spears said.

image: Bauer-Griffin

So far, six dates have been announced starting with a performance at Perth’s Burswood Dome on November 6, 2009 and ending on November 24, 2009 at Brisbane’s Entertainment Centre.  She has also planned stops at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena and Sydney Acer Arena.

Even though she came to my area, I couldn’t being myself to actually see the $50 million stage production including almost 50 dancers, magicians, clowns and acrobats.  Yes, that does sound amazing (and amazingly over-the-top) but I also don’t want to pay $100 to see someone lip-synch.  Don’t get me wrong, I realize what she’s been through and I am so happy to see her career on the upswing but this just feels like faking a comeback, in some ways, doesn’t it?

While I’m on the subject, who put this show together?  Is it spectacular?  I’m sure it is but anyone who has worked in the industry will know that this much dancing is not going to make singing a possibility unless you are in great shape and have built up the vocal stamina.

Amazingly, the fans don’t seem to mind because her ticket sales are through the roof.

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