Britney’s Femme Fatale Wounds, But Doesn’t “Kill”

11 03 2011

Don’t call it a comeback, again. She never really left. Unless you count a couple of years off for crazy, Britney’s been going strong-ish for over a decade now. Somehow through all her troubles, PR issues, seeming lack of personality or brains or hair, she’s continued to draw the biggest talent and get the most press, all outselling girls from her heyday with much bigger voices like XTina, Jessica Simpson and my beloved Mandy Moore. What has Britney got that has kept her relevant over the years while the Aguilera’s of the world sing from the gutter (no, really, I just saw her out front Hotel Chateau)? Listening to Britney’s new CD, the secrets in the producers.

Much like sports teams like the Yankees, enough money will buy you talent, therefore getting you results, fixed or not. The ultimate pop powerhouse of Dr. Luke (Taio Cruz, Katy Perry, Ke-dollar sign-ha) and Max Martin (Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, BSB, Britney) are executive producers with Darkchild, Bloodshy, and Satan twiddling the knobs. Not that there’s anything wrong per se with this method. What  Femme Fatale (in stores March 25th) gives us is as polished and pretty as a new diamond. Early singles Till The End Of the World and Hold It Against Me lead of the project, both extremely strong, if not overly simple.  Just like on the last two albums, they led off with candy singles and hid some of the other gems (Break The Ice, Mannequin, Unusual You) for your later discovery. Trip To The Heart moves beyond her usual sounds for more of a Kylie Minogue “green fairy dust” sort of lightness that works well for her voice. The pop jams Trouble For Me and Gasoline wouldn’t sound out of place on her mid-period albums with their simple funky 00’s sheen – Think Toxic, or Stronger – though we could do without the prog house drops in the middle of Trouble. The only missteps are the dubhouse crap of Inside Out and How I Roll. Both to sound dated soon. If you liked Circus, definitely pick up, Femme Fatale, but if not, she won’t win you over with this one either.



Born This Way, or Raised By Madonna?

11 02 2011

Friday, February 11th, 2011. Ground Zero. Chicago.
No, not thousands of Egyptian residents rejoicing as Hosni Mubarak steps down, or even gay icon Robyn playing live again, but we got our first taste of Lady GaGa’s new material today…and it’s a very familiar flavor at that…a hint of Madonna.
Now, trust, there is nothing more cliché than a gay music critic comparing Madonna to Gaga, I’m aware. But this truly is the first time I’ve noticed it in her production and writing vs. just her imagery. The chorus of La’gaga’s new single, Born This Way, is directly lifted from Madge’s Express Yourself (thank you Matthew Harvat for pointing that one out) and the fading clicks at the end couldn’t be more Express Yourself.
As your probably aware, this isn’t the first time someone has tried to cop Madonna’s sound. The first one I recollect is one hit wonder Regina who’s single Baby Love was so similar to everything off Madonna’s self titled album that we all thought it was a new Madonna single when it hit the radio in 1986. Turns out Baby Love was written for Madonna with Stephen Bray (Madonna’s main collaborator in her early years), but Regina decided to keep it for herself instead. Good move for one hit, but she was so close to Madonna but without the sexy charisma that there was no need for Regina in the pop world after that.
Madonna then didn’t get much in the way of imitators until the 90’s when Kylie Minogue and Cathy Dennis, both in the downward slide of their careers tried on her mid-period sound on Kylie’s Where is the Feeling and Cathy’s entire Into the Skyline, produced by collaborator Shep Pettibone. Well, those two attempts bombed. So lets flash forward to 2009.
The heinous Black Eyed Peas had one glimmer of quality when Fergie and paid homage to her Like a Virgin era with Meet Me Halfway, even working the word Borderline into the chorus. If it wasn’t for the lame wrapping, it’d been the best Madonna track in years. This tribute, combined with Born This Way, show that aping Madonna is truly in “Vogue”. Now if only Ms. Ciccone herself could tap into that, she could still snatch that crown form Ms. Germanotta’s little monster head.

From TVLand to Bargain Bin

3 08 2010

Yes, Kristy McNichol DID sing

In the past few weeks I’ve notice two pop/dance “diva’s” albums take two different turns. As Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite becomes her highest debuting CD of her career, Leighton Meester’s still unreleased CD sits on Universal’s shelf, since its announcement and failed single back in October 2009. These two have more in common than having a slick sound, great shoes and weighing as much as large house cats. Both came from being known as TV actresses (Gossip Girl and Neighbors) with hopes of a big music career. One with a 20 year plus career, one not so much.

So what is it that makes it for so few and breaks it for more than a few?

Could it be talent? While there’s no doubt that the landscape of TV is littered with tone deaf (Cheryl Ladd, Tootie) and over-singers (Dixie and Lynda Carter) many actresses have very nice passable voices which if not great, are Jennifer Lopez, Hilary…not Haley…Duff, and Alanis Morisette have all made pretty decent music…some more than others, but they’re all decent singers.

So if it’s not talent, what is it. The formula seems to have been solved by Disney. They seemed to get it right early on with the 90’s Mickey Mouse Club spawning Britney, X-Tina, and Justin Timberlake. The key formula is today as it was then. Introduce the music with the acting as a slow brainwashing so that you see them as multi-talented and it’s not a shock when they do put out the CD. It still works to this day with successes by Miley and Selena Gomez.

So, Leighton, you may have missed the boat by being the bitch, not the chanteuse, on GG, but maybe Kylie could still use one more backing singer on her next tour. You can sing, right?

Moose’s Guide to the Ultimate Summer Tracks

10 06 2010

If you’ve been in earshot at some of my recent music gigs or trapped in my car with me, you’ll know that my summer soundtrack is going to be anything remixed by the genius Fred Falke, especially his remix of last year’s Heavy Cross by The Gossip. As I was listening to it for about the 100th time, and having just convinced my man that he likes it, I got to thinking of Summer’s past and what makes something a big gay summer jam.

Handclaps (Walking on Sunshine, Summer Love by JT) just make you wanna put your hands in the air like you just may not really care, or maybe you do. Either way it sparks a carefree attitude in all of us.

Walking on Sunshine – Extended Mix

Summer Love

A little seductive Spanish or French (La Isla Bonita, Your Disco Needs You) immediately takes you to a swanky beach party in your head where Diego or Jean Luc whisper dirty european thoughts in your ear while slathering you with oil and serving you Cinzanno. But use protection. I know where Diego’s been.

La Isla Bonita – Live 2008

Your Disco Needs You (Casino Mix)

Samples of house piano or lilting strings (Summer Night City, Stomp, all Crystal Waters) have been a summer jam trick since the disco era. That 70’s fire island disco engrained in our gay noggins may be why it still works.

ABBA’s Summer Night City

Brothers Johnson’s Stomp

And finally: Jangly guitar riffs (Summerfling/kd lang/Ananda mix, Beautiful by Jask). Maybe its my love of Django Reinhart or George Benson but that jazzy, lazy guitar sound makes me go limp in my hammock and firm in my junk. Besides a muscle bear and 3 martini’s, it’s the thing most likely to get me dancing with my shirt off!

Summerfling (Ananda Mix)

Beautiful by Jask

Have a happy, clappin’ Summer!

Kylie’s Colon Blow

1 06 2010

The new Kylie video leaked out today for the latest single, All the Lovers.

While at first I was struck by its similarity to Slow, upon full viewing, it has more of a tip to Phil Hartman’s Colin Blow commercial from the late 80’s on SNL.

This video doesn’t exist

Madonna vs. Kylie…indeed

7 05 2010

By now my Chicago friends are dead sick of me mentioning my Kylie vs. Madonna night tonight at Wild Pug, but I have to say something. My friend Joel, who has been a Kylie consultant on this venture asked me to check out the 2 below videos of Kylie (Cowboy Style) and Madonna (Into the Groove)  on tour. One from the past year…one from the mid 90’s.  Now, I know Madonna doesn’t necessarily do her own staging or choroeography, but some homo should have pointed out the many many ways she ripped off Kylie from her Fever tour: jump-ropes, hip hop, Keith Harring style animation, rap samples, etc.  Its pretty hilarious. I don’t blame Madge, but she needs to gets some better mo’s, and maybe a good lawyer. Ha!

info on tonight’s battle:!/event.php?eid=114696171878430&ref=mf

Attention Europe, we’re over here!

11 02 2010

Visual assitance for the Chicago impaired

Yesterday should have been an exciting day. A new email was in my inbox from one of my all time favorite pop bands, a-ha.  Don’t laugh. There’s more to them than Take On Me and a pretty face. This band has been on and off churning out progressively better and better adult alternative and high-end pop for the past 25 years with little disappointment outside of the lack of live appearances in the U.S. They did one gig in NYC back when they were promoting Take On Me and their debut CD, Hunting High and Low back in 1986. In 2005, they did a random, one-off live concert at New York’s Irving Plaza which sold out in 52 minutes and was a critical and fan favorite. You’d think then, when announcing their final tour of their careers and that they’d be doing U.S. shows that they’d really dig into their U.S. fan base. Not so. They’re doing three NY shows, and two L.A. with one in each town sold out. Hey, a-ha, you think you might have a huge U.S. fan base? Like Kylie Minogue found out last year, and Alison Moyet of Yaz failed to see the year before, when they snubbed us on her solo tour, U.S. record sales mean little when it comes to ticket demand. Kylie, who sells out arenas worldwide, was shocked and stunned at the reaction she got in the midwest especially, when she decided to book something here. Her concert sold out in no time and was soon moved to a larger venue.  Her people clearly had no clue prior to arrival.

Morten, still hot

With illegal downloads and before that import CD sales, there’s little way to gauge demand in the U.S. for European artists with sub par or no U.S. label. Somehow this has to change as we watch the rest of the civilized world get love from Robbie Williams, Faithless, Simply Red, Spandau Ballet, and now my former loves, a-ha. Don’t underestimate our love, you crazy Nords. Ask Erasure, La Roux, Adelle, Depeche Mode,  and Pet Shop Boys how much the midwest loves a European act.  The love is there for you. Now time to show some back.