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2014/04/08

April Showers, the Masses Devour: Music Reviews for the Radio Weary

They say hope springs eternal...

...but sadly, there does not seem to be a whole lot to cheer about among the current spring earworms slithering their way onto the airwaves.  

Maybe the best is to come with summer.  Fingers crossed.  

Here’s my take on the latest crop:

Me and My Broken Heart – Rixton

So, Rob Thomas and Matchbox 20 are now retro enough to inspire this homage?  

Brought to you by what appears to be a calculated quartet of teen magazine-ready lads, there’s nothing terribly original or exciting to be found here, though it does have enough pop smarts to sound perfectly at home on the airwaves; where it, too, will evaporate into the sound sphere, haunting us for eternity on the Reoccurring Hits chart.   

Into the Blue - Kylie Minogue

This is rather a surprise. This 45 year-old diva takes on the sound of the Disney / Nickelodeon princesses and comes up with a winner.  There’s a lot going on here and Kylie actually sounds like a human being instead of a character from some generic piece of anime. The bottom is missing in the mix, but the song is very likable, easy on the ears, life positive, jubilant, and, dare I say, snappy. 

If it doesn’t find a home on radio, it will only go to show that veteran acts can’t get air play in these modern times. Because this?  This should be a hit.

Believer – American Authors

Follow-up to their break-out hit ‘Best Day Ever’ (which is still in the top 40), American Authors don’t stray far from that formula, though this one is a tad less peppy.  Still, it has a couple of decent hooks, so it may manage to scrape its way to the bottom of the top 40 and become their second hit.  Yes, there is something very generic about the whole package, but likable enough all the same.

FALLINLOVE2NITE – Prince feat. Zooey Deschanel

Nice to have Prince back on the radio.  This derivative pile of disco clichés hits a sweet nostalgic note, bringing to mind the best (fun) and worst (repetitive riffs, lack of substance, boilerplate strings and horns) of disco.  It’s all in good fun.  

Wish this was a sign that Prince was wising up and has come to the realization that aloofness rarely works when it comes to making the masses dance.   

Perhaps it’s the recent appropriation of his signature styles by the likes of Jason Derulo (Chris Brown without all the woman beating) and Robin Thicke (the new Tom Jones) that has spurred this latest attempt at regaining his position on the charts.  Whatever the case, this is a welcome entry.  

Oh, and the presence of Ms. Deschanel?  Eh.  No harm.

Beating Heart – Ellie Goulding

A track from the ‘Divergent’  (some ‘Twilight’ / ‘Hunger Games’ tween thing) soundtrack.  Hearing it, all I can think of is Florence + The Machine, as Ms. Welch has the kind of stuttering bleat that sells this type of fractured, yearning, vague ballad-pop.  This one is a bit on the weak side, and I doubt it has the kind of power to find its way onto the radio. 

Goulding, of course, acquits herself quite nicely.  There’s nothing to dislike here, but also nothing to keep your attention for three and a half minutes.

I’m Only Joking – KONGOS

Big cajun jungle drums and an almost industrial-style sneer fuel this one. There’s something sinister and gleefully evil about it, but not really.  It’s simply pop in the form of ‘Sisters of Mercy’ with a concertina thrown in for authenticity.  

Still, it’s a nice reprieve from the flood of tweeny pop.  

God, I miss rock and roll.

Girls Chase Boys – Ingrid Michaelson

This track lopes along in a sunny, familiar way.  It sort of reminds me of some of Tom Tom Club’s stuff.  Sounds great on the radio, although I think its mid-tempo beat will relegate it to rotation on adult alternative stations only.  

The video is an homage to Robert Palmer’s classic ‘Simply Irresistible’ vid, and isn’t nearly as funny as I’d hoped.  

Ingrid is smart (or does she simply look so?), which sadly doesn’t play well to the masses these days.

Cheap Sunglasses – RAC feat Matthew Koma

How fun.  More Tom Tom Club sunniness, although Owl City would seem to be the actual inspiration for this one.   The slight calypso-like steel drum that percolates beneath elevates it quite a bit.  The lyrics are a joy as well.  

RAC is a well-established remixer taking a shot at his own bit of pop heaven.  Based on ‘Cheap Sunglasses’, I’d say he’s ascending.

Wild Wild Love – Pitbull feat. G.R.L.

The dullest rap Pitbull has ever contributed to anything spliced onto a faceless G.R.L. vocal that flirts with that whole hokey hoe down meets dance music sound.  

The chorus plays well, but oh, Mr. Pitbull… I fear the end is near.  This feels far too desperate and empty, even for you.  

And given that you’re sleepwalking?  Please put back on your shades, hon.

Summer – Calvin Harris

This is not the summer anthem Mr. Harris (isn't he sexy?) would like it to be.  The vocals are odd, to say the least, the lyrics boring, and once the icy synths explode with predictability, it would be really easy to write it off completely.  But then there’s a key change and some female backing echoes, and then a pause, and then another key change and then… all for naught. It still feels like it was pooped out in 1998.  

This is a slight bit of a song stretched to the breaking point, wearing out its welcome in a way that the season itself never will.

Red Lights – Tiesto

When I think ‘Tiesto’, I think of his ‘Adagio for Strings’  – an innovative bit of whirling dance floor brilliance back in the day.  This?  I don’t know who this is; it sounds horribly bland; flaccid lyrics with an unimaginative, whiny vocal.  In other words, it works just fine on the current sound-scape.  

Glad Tiesto finally has a mainstream hit, sorry this is it.

Empire – Shakira

This is Alanis More-Or-Less in bombastic mode (remember ‘Uninvited’?): her vocal tics, her quirky lyrics, with a bit of Tori Amos thrown in for good measure. Only the occasional bellow clues us in that this is Shakira, in search of a hit.  

Well, she’s found one.  

This one has enough drama for everybody’s Momma; it plays like the theme song for some stupid blockbuster movie. Yep, this could turn out to be her biggest yet.

I Swear I Lived - OneRepublic

Sporting  enough platitudes to shore up their own Hallmark store (and owing a rather large debt to Dylan's 'Forever Young'), OneRepublic continues its assault on America’s ear drums.  Ryan Tedder is bound and determined to leave no cliché’ unturned and I am not just talking about the lyrics.  

Sweet, achingly sincere acoustic, Christian rock opening?  Check.  Shuffle beat build up?  Check.  Stadium-ready, soaring, inspirational, declarative Coldplay-like bombastic chorus?  Check. 

Yes, it’s likable.  Yes, it’s harmless.  And, yes, it will be wafting from the speakers of our car radios for the next four to six months. Sigh.  It’s almost enough to make me yearn for a new Maroon 5 album.  I said, almost…

G.U.Y. – Lady Gaga

The video for this song looks… expensive.  So, it seems everybody in the industry feels that ‘ARTPOP’ is a huge failure.  And while it might not be garnering the kind of sales record companies like, and the singles do appear to be underperforming on the charts, I wouldn’t be so quick to slap that label on it.  

That she’s grown as a vocalist is undeniable, as is the fact that she’s stylistically cast a wider net.  Does it all work?  No.  For example, the childish spoken word stanzas that link verse to chorus  on ‘G.U.Y.’ pretty much sink this one as far as radio is concerned.  

But visually?  

The lady has got it going on.  Gone is amateur hour… she’s a professional now.  

Every artist of any worth goes through a period of growth marketed as new product.  It’s what comes next that has me excited about Ms. G.






























1 comment:

whkattk said...

I gotta say, I can do without Pit Bull.

Lady G will come back into her own. She's smart as well as talented and if she'll follow the business/creativity model of Madonna and/or Babs and she could be around for decades.