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2013/05/31

Spring 2013 Dance/Pop Music Reviews

I haven’t done this in some time.  And while some of these are past their peak, I still want to comment on all forty-four of them! 

My sister recently gifted me with a couple of Amazon gift cards she received from vendors at work that she did not want (???), which I guess speaks to the fact that she makes a lot of money.  She knew that what she saw as table scraps would mean a huge difference to me!  And they do – they meant I could go download a bunch of disposable songs that I would otherwise never own.

So, here are some brief reviews.  And, yes, many of these songs are way past their shelf life, but I am doing a lot of catch up work this week at the office, so I thought my posts on the blog should follow suit.

People Like Us (Fuego Remix) – Kelly Clarkson
Catch My Breath (Cash Cash Remix) – Kelly Clarkson
Darkside – Kelly Clarkson
I never wanted to like Kelly Clarkson, resisted her for as long as I could.  The only CD of hers I own is the one that Clive Davis didn’t want her to release, where she took the reins and got all gothy.  It is not a good CD featuring poorly wrought songs underlining all of her weaknesses as a singer.  She tends to get screechy and shrill. That is true of these songs, too.  

Typically, in the hands of a great producer, her faults as a singer are minimized or magnified to the point of sonic obliteration.  ‘People Like Us’ and ‘Catch My Breath’ fall into this category and are best heard in remixed form, where there is a little space breathed in to the mix between aural assaults.  And I like the songs – both anthems of empowerment, even though they both sound like something Taylor Swift farted out and could easily be remolded with a modern country veneer in order to fit on that chart quite easily.  However, it’s ‘Darkside’, a relatively older track from her pre-Greatest Hits CD, which is the real winner here.  Lyrics are cryptic and interesting and I simply adore the dark drama that brews within.  Yes, Kelly manages to over sing, as required, but it is still quite a great song. 

Sweet Nothing (Tiesto Remix) – Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch
This one has been around awhile now.  Tiesto, around longest of all, brings little new to the table (same tricks, same style as anything that has his name on it), other than allowing the song to breathe a bit.  Not that it needs air; it is so filled with air I expect the song to float away into nothingness.  I like Calvin Harris.  His ‘Let’s Go’ is rather mundane, but really enjoyable and when I hear it at the gym it makes me smile.  ‘Sweet Nothing’ is pure ear candy and Welch acquits herself nicely (thank you auto-tune), employing her typical vocal tics (braying, howling, over-reaching).   One could wish for more substance, but given those involved, what more could one expect?

Shooting Star – Owl City
This one never broke big, except on the Christian Rock charts, which is apt, I guess.  This dude is from a tiny town called Owatonna, MN and while I admire his abilities, his music is a little twee for my taste.  I really hated his duet with Carly Rae Jepsen, ‘Good Time” (ugh – gawd awful), but this one, from the same album, spoke to me.  I like uplifting songs – always will – even when wrapped up in the white, pearly, Hostess Bakery goodness of the Wonder Bread that is Owl City.

Everybody’s Beautiful – Miasha
The sentiment is what sold me.  The actual song is a pretty pedestrian dance track grounded by some awesome gritty vocals.  Again, it’s about being uplifted.  “Everybody’s beautiful when they’re dancing”, right?  What’s not to like?

Clarity – Zedd feat. Foxes
This one had me from the first listen.  It is currently winding its way up the top 40 and I rather liken it to Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’, in the sense that it is a bit on the gloomy side with hints of a great deal of depth.  It is beautiful, and that is undeniable.  Sure, the lyrics are more than a bit vague, but I rather enjoy filling in the blanks (like a crossword puzzle) with my own experiences.  This is the epitome of the type of dance music I am currently infatuated with.  More examples to follow…

Days Turn Into Nights (Solarstone Pure Edit) – Delerium
I Could Be The One (Avicii vs Nicky Romero) - Avicii
I Don't Deserve You (Remix) - Paul Van Dyk feat. Plumb
Hold On – Nervo
These fall into the same faceless category as Zedd’s ‘Clarity’.  They are pretty, have some weight to them, feel substantial (more than they actually are), and have some philosophical/dramatic bent to them.  Coasting on layers of synths, hypnotic understated beats, the occasional solid thump, and feathery vocals, all these songs go down pretty easy, tickling the brain while motivating the heart.

Don’t You Worry Child – Swedish House Mafia feat. John Martin
This actually belongs in the same category as the above, but it is even more thought provoking and heartfelt.  It was also a huge mainstream hit. I like the dramatic arc of the piece, as well as the sonic elements.  It mines the same territory as Mike & The Mechanics did eons ago, but every generation needs a song about their Dad, am I right?  Pity the group has disbanded.

Flavor (Peter Rauhofer Remix) – Tori Amos
Typically, Tori tends to end up as an afterthought in her own remixes (‘Professional Widow’ springs to mind).  That is not the case here. Her voice actually gives this piece what shape and texture it has.  I like the many builds, hushes, and cascading synths. Not sure why, but I am super attracted to this type of dance music even though it has all the staying power of powder doughnut.

The Lucky Ones – Kerli
Pedestrian diva dance filler.  Kerli possesses one of the most annoying voices I have ever heard (and in the world of dance music - that is saying a lot).  Her voice is so pointed and shrill, I feel like tiny razor blades are attacking my ears. Usually a producer will try to undercut vocal deficiencies with sound board wizardry, but not here. That said, the song itself is not bad.  I will never understand how this became a #1 on the dance charts.  Maybe Kerli has other talents?  She does look like a porn star nymphet.

Oh Mama Hey - Chris Cox & DJ Frankie feat. Crystal Waters
Love this song.   When she sings “Oh Mama Hey”, it sounds like “Obama Hey”.  Great mix, deep and dirty.  I like dance music that has weight to it, as in a thudding shredded bass.  Honestly, I am amazed Crystal is still up and running (heard bad things), but maybe she has her act together, for she acquits herself quite nicely here.  One of my faves of the year.

One and Only (Dave Aude Remix) - Cherry Cherry Boom Boom
What a great group name.  The song is rather straight forward and exactly what you expect.  The male vocals are bright, but lack distinction.  Not much to recommend here, I mean, it’s okay, nothing more. Great name, though.

Scream & Shout [Explicit] - Will.I.Am feat. Britney Spears
When I first heard this I just laughed and laughed.  I love that fake British snob thing Britney does.  And it’s a damn catchy song.  Little substance, but great hooks; which seems to be Will.I.Am’s thing.  I generally disapprove of the Black Eyed Peas, but Will.I.Am on his own?  Vacant, but fun.

Supercharged - Kwanza Jones
This is a dance floor chugger.  I like the energy and attitude.  The song is a tad rudimentary, and perhaps a tad confusing (what’s with the ‘I love cocaine’ line?  Does anyone do that anymore?).  Still, the propulsion alone, while a bit dated, is a welcome change from the rest of the field. And Kwanaza seems to have some Grace Jones/Nona Hendryx mojo moving through her veins.

Up and Up (Papercha$er Remix) - Haddaway  (feat. The Mad Stuntman)
Remember Haddaway (What Is Love)?  I have always liked his voice and spent an entire summer listening to that Arista album while running in Iowa back in 1994 or 1995. His voice is broad, warm, and nicely toned, and has not diminished one bit over the years.  The song is only so-so (the usual rap/sung chorus/rap mode), but it is rather uplifting so I like it when played at the gym. 

Titanium - David Guetta feat. Sia  
This is now one of my favorites from last year, but I really didn’t come to appreciate it until this year.  Sia, typically, annoys the hell out of me. However, she’s come a long way from her ‘I’m Just the Girl You Lost to Cocaine’ days.  Sure, her vocal tics are everywhere, but she’s managed to smooth some of the quirkiness out and delivers, here, a more than respectable vocal – in fact, I would go so far as to say the best vocal of her career thus far (though she has a track on ‘The Great Gatsby’ soundtrack that is also quite stellar). 

David Guetta has become the Cheese Whiz of clubland; providing fluffy, oil-saturated, brightly colored gunk that doesn’t require a lot of heavy lifting or digesting.  Not there’s anything wrong with that.  He’s been highly successful of late with many of his collaborations and one of the driving forces bringing the club sound to mainstream radio. 

Closer - Tegan and Sara
These Canadian identical twins have been around for a bit and are big on the College Radio charts, but this is the first time I’ve bit (or been bitten).  I must admit, part of the appeal is that the song was used for some advertising campaign, and I am a sucker for stuff that pierces my cortex via sneaky, insidiously evil ways.  That said, this is a cute, well-made song. I especially like the bridge, “here comes the dream of me and you…”  It might as well be sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks, because, for me, the twins register zero in the personality category.  Nice and light and poppin’ fresh.  Shelf life?  Limited.

Lessons in Love – Kaskade feat. Neon Trees
Love Neon Trees.  Love Kaskade.  They are great together, too.  Whether Neon Trees go down as 2012’s Foster the People remains to be seen.  Their song, ‘Everybody Talks’, was as inescapable and clever as ‘Kicks’ was the year before.  I really like the lead singer, too… especially when he wears those skinny jeans and allows his fingers to play with his lower lip.  What’s that about?  I dunno.  But it’s sexy.  Oh, this song?  Yeah, it has a driving, bombastic beat like something Sisters of Mercy might have drummed up back in the day.  Brooding and heaving, I like it like that. 

Gold (Ralph Rosario Radio Remix) – Neon Hitch feat. Tyga
This should have been a breakthrough hit.  Why radio didn’t pick up on this little slice of ear candy is anybody’s guess.  Yes, the vocals are pitched a little too tightly for my comfort, but there is such personality there; it makes up for it.  Tyga neither helps nor hurts.  A perfect little gem of a pop song.

Suit & Tie  - Justin Timberlake feat. Jay Z
I prematurely dubbed this The Single of the Year 2013.  Nothing has come along to dethrone it, yet.  I find its retro R&B vibe authentic and flattering.  Even Jay Z, with his typical dial-it-in effort, can’t wreck this one.  Justin sounds credible and incredible.  Glad he’s back.  He’s a terrific popsmith and songwriter.

Mirrors (Radio Edit) – Justin Timberlake
More Justin.  More clever songwriting.  He delves into Bruno Mars territory on this one and comes out a winner, because unlike Bruno’s efforts, there is nothing in this song that makes me cringe.  It lolls its way out of my radio and sounds perfectly at home.  Not his best – it lacks musical drama, but even second rate Justin is way better than most first rate efforts.

Anything Could Happen – Ellie Goulding
When Glee chose to cover this I was amazed that it did not shoot into the top 40.  Pity, because even though it comes across as a little annoying and desperate, it still contains enough uplifting elements to make it heartwarming.  Ellie’s vocals?  Yeah, breathy, staccato nonsense, but effective nonetheless.  I actually thought the Glee version (yes, I tuned in only to see what they did with this song) was superior to Ellie’s own.  But I think everybody’s infatuation with show choirs has worn thin.  Pity, because Ellie’s career could have used the momentum.

Superlove – Avicii feat. Lenny Kravitz
I don’t like Lenny Kravitz much – too derivative, too lyrically Dr. Seuss simplistic.  But I like this song.  Avicii has had quite the year so far, remixing and collaborating almost as much as David Guetta and Calvin Harris.  This song has more to do with Avicii at the control panel then it does Lenny’s vocals. Putting Lenny in the backseat?  Good idea.  This pulses pleasantly along with just the right amount of sweep and build.  A tad old school, but then, dance music has yet to move into a new era, so old school will have to do for now.

#Thatpower – Will.I.Am feat. Justin Bieber
A bit less successful than his collaboration with Britney, due to Will.I.Am’s failing to ask Justin to do anything outside his comfort zone.  Still, a pleasant, uplifting trifle, typically lacking substance.  But Will.I.Am will probably never be a groundbreaker.  In a way, he is to pop/dance music what P. Diddy is to rap.  Or what vanilla is to yogurt. P.S. – I now own a song that Justin Bieber sings on… a sad chill just went through me.

Kisses Down Low – Kelly Rowland
Ummm…. I love this song.  I wanna do some nasty ass shit while this is playing in the background.  Ms. Kelly?  She got it going on in this old school jam which purrs nicer than any Italian sports car ever could.  Kudos to all involved.  This is one for the ages.  If it fails to hit on radio, one can understand; the subject material is still a bit too racy for the I-Heart-Radio crowd.  But it will be popping up as long as anybody needs a dirty deep beat that overstates the obvious – this is lick-o-licious!  Ooo.  Makes me arch my back!

Glowing (Cazzette vs. Nikki Williams Radio Edit) – Nikki Williams
Beam Me Up – Cazzette
Fly Away (Main Mix – Explicit) – Guinevere
Pointing Fingers (Dave Aude Radio Edit) – Stacy Jackson
Alive – Krewella
I’m throwing these four together because they are sort of cut from the same cloth.  I have grown to love all four. 

‘Glowing’ still makes no sense to me lyrically, and musically feels like three songs sewn together, but I love the line “Seven seconds till I hit the ground, but you saved my life”. I don’t know what it means or has to do with ‘Glowing’, but it’s enough to keep my interest.

‘Beam Me Up’ is just good fun.  What’s to complain about?  I love the chug-filled chorus and can imagine a dance floor of sweaty, shirtless male forms undulating in a wave once it hits.  Vocals are fine and I am curious what else Cazzette (love the name) has to offer.

‘Fly Away’ is my favorite of this quintet.  It feels a tad cookie-cutter, by-the-numbers, but I fell in love with the chorus, “Dance all night, sing all day, I’ve grown these wings so I can fly away…”  The vocals really help sell it and the fuzz bucket guttural bottom to the verses hit me right, too, as do lyrics like “My phone is ringing,  right off the hook, don’t really feel like picking up, I know you’re calling, don’t give a fuck, ‘cuse we’ve fallen out of love…

Kristine W. haunts Stacy Jackson’s ‘Pointing Fingers’.  Everything, from the repetitive chorus parts to the tired-of-taking-shit verses bring to mind vintage, remixed Kristine.  Jackson’s vocals aren’t as warm, for she’s incapable of wrapping her voice around a lyric the way Kristine does.  There’s also a slyness that Kristine would have brought to the mix that is sorely missing here.  Jackson’s approach is straight ahead, no-nonsense, leaving one wishing she would have had a little more fun at the expense of her intended target.


Krewella’s ‘Alive’ surprised me by surfacing in the lower half of the top 40 and creating a stir in I-Heart-Radio-land.  It sounds good on the radio, though it lacks staying power.  Their debut album, on Columbia, is now receiving a final polish and is set for release soon.  Dub-step is kind of played out, but hey… time will tell.

Heaven (Owlie Remix) – Depeche Mode
Rudimentary Depeche Mode and there are better remixes of it out there, I just picked this one.  Definitely harkens back to the ‘I Just Can’t Get Enough’ days.  The simplistic cascading scale that anchors this initially feels lazy, but grows on you; as comfortable as it is chilly.

Acid Rain (Stargate Extended Mix) – Alexis Jordan feat. J. Cole
Wow.  I love this song.  It shifts direction several times, but the whiplash is worth it.  A soaring chorus belies the tale of mental and physical abuse outlined in the verses.  Okay, one could argue the lyrics make no sense (and they are rather hard to decipher), but this one won me over big time.  Sure, Rhi-Rhi got there first, but Alexis has the chops to make this the start of something big.

I Love It – Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX
Owing a debt to Sly Fox and Roxette, Icona Pop smacks this tiny ditty out of the park.  It’s glam and sassy with plenty of attitude and an adolescent chunky beat that feels right for the end of school.  I am the 70’s, and yes, Icona is indeed a 90’s bitch.  Total Suzi Quatro fluff served up with a snarl.

My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light Em Up) – Fall Out Boy
This pop, cracks and snaps in the same mode as ‘I Love It’, but takes a couple of wicked sharp-as-knives turns in the process. Love the piled on Kiss homage (I’m on fire!).  Basically FOB throws in every trick in the book, including the kitchen sink.  I admire people who know how to cherry pick their pop influences. And… this sounds awesome on the radio.

The Way – Ariana Grande feat. Mac Miller
Talk about an homage.  Toni Braxton has been mining this same cave for decades.  These days, Toni can’t get radio play, while Ariana manages to debut in the top 40 her first week of release?  I don’t get it.  Listen to this song and if you can’t imagine it falling from the lips of Ms. Braxton, then I will give up writing these reviews.  The song is fine.  Catchy chorus, cooing bridge, and a sassy little swing throughout that will keep your toes tapping.  Miller’s contributions are pretty average – and what’s with the nod to the movie ‘American Beauty’?  Kind of lazy, Mr. Mac.

I Need Your Love – Calvin Harris feat. Ellie Goulding
I dislike the chorus, as it is terribly mundane.  The verses, on the other hand, work really well. Calvin has a terrible habit of being perfectly happy to never push an envelope, offering up the totally expected time and time again.  This will probably sink his career.  Ellie’s vocals are fairly endearing and one wishes Mr. Harris had provided her with something more substantial to work with.

Let There Be Love – Christina Aguilera
‘Lotus’, Christina’s last CD, came and went without making much of impression.  Diehard fans bought it.  Nobody else did.  The singles failed and that looked to be all she wrote.  But then the clubs picked up this cut and the next thing you know it sails (slowly, by dance chart standards) to the #1 spot on the dance/club play chart.  As it really should have; it’s a nice work out.  Vocally, Christina continues to play things a tad overwrought, but when you’re whipping up a dance floor full of gays that kind of chewing-the-scenery tonsil exercise plays well.   The song itself is text book perfect stomp fodder… and every time I hear it, I like it more.

Come & Get It – Selena Gomez
Time will tell if Selena ever develops a personality of her own.  ‘Come & Get It’ is Rhi-Rhi lite meets Britney territory. Not a bad combo and Selena sells it well.  The song is currently being used to promote some horrible television show, so the soccer moms are sure to hop on board.  But the problem of what to do with a girl named Selena Gomez continues.  She is such a moppet.  I recently saw her trussed up in some rather adult-looking lingerie traipsing through a field for her latest video.  She looked like Dora the Explorer dipping her toe into the world of Victoria’s Secret.  Whether Selena will go down in history as anything more than Justin Bieber’s former girlfriend who scored a couple of pop hits or come into her own remains to be seen.  I’m not holding my breath.

Get Lucky (Radio Edit) – Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams
Awwww.  Talk about an homage!   Jamiroquai would like a little credit here.  They mined this sound long before Daft Punk decided to dial back their usual technologic sound and get funky.  This is a pleasant little work out that does no harm, but it also doesn’t ever attempt to break the surface either.  No surprises, just a nice little chunk-a-chunk Bee Gees era guitar anchoring a disco sheen that floats by without every striving to make much an impression.

Run Free – Rebecca Ferguson
Okay, so this song is from 2010, I think. Rebecca Ferguson is the winner of the British version of the X-Factor or something.  Thing is – she’s really, really good.  Like Aretha Franklin good.  I LOVE THIS SONG.  It is my song for the summer.  The chorus captures everything I want for myself in life and that subtle, weird Rolling Stones disco thing that’s percolating in the background is pure genius. Check this one out.  Her label recently re-released this in the states (for some reason) with a different cover.  If nothing else, hit it up on YouTube.  You will be glad you did.

That’s all for now.  You got to keep on dancing!

4 comments:

carol said...

I must be getting old, I only recognize a few names.

Carol.

Skilled4Men said...

You just love your music... I can tell! Thank God for The Music Channels, Satellite Radio, and These Terrific Posts!!!

whkattk said...

And, here, I thought **I** had an eclectic collection of music! Sheesh, I got nothin' compared to this list.

Stan said...

I'm not getting old I AM old. Thanks for this. I do try to keep up with you youngsters.