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Croon a Tune in June: Pop Music Reviews

Croon a Tune in June: Pop Music Reviews

Ooh… some fine stuff is brewing.  First we have Lana Del Rey preparing the charts to be bathed in her peculiar sultry blue ambiance.  Then we have a maturing Ms. Nicki Minaj reclaiming her throne with her latest offering.  Add newcomer Tove Lo to the mix, and we have the beginnings of an interesting month, with more intriguing stuff in the offing.

Yep, there’s reason to hope, folks.  There’s change in the wind.  Let’s dig in…

Do It Again
Royksopp & Robyn
I can’t think of a better pairing.  A longtime fan of both.  Robyn is a terrific songwriter with great chops and a unique bent.  Royksopp provides the background, anchoring this number in a warm blanket of synths that purr and throb in all the right places.  Though I must say, it is odd hearing Robyn play faceless, breathy vocalist for the duo as she has such unique sensibilities - but that is my only complaint. 

The song is solid and super enjoyable, if a bit too on the nose (“wait for the build”).  Something tells me that this might play better in a remixed version.  As is, it is a solid piece of dance floor fodder, hitting all the right notes and crescendos.  Whether it gets any radio play remains to be seen, but it’s sure to be a hit in the clubs. 

I Will Never Let You Down
Rita Ora
Last heard on ‘How We Do (Party)’, I had assumed that was the beginning and end for this artist.  But I was wrong.  In fact, I am fairly impressed with Ms. Ora, who is currently being pitched as a combination of Rihanna and Keri Hilson. 

The song possesses enough charms and change-ups to keep the listener’s ear engaged, even if it fails to break any new ground.  I would think this would play well with I ‘Heart’ Radio’s audience.  Remixed?  It wouldn’t have me running for the dance floor, but it’s fun enough. 

Knock You Out
Bingo Players
Modern dance pop is in a bit of a rut. The formula is rather simple: take a vaguely eighties sounding empowerment ballad, add a flank of synths to bridge any holes, and repeat often until the slight hook becomes lodged in the brain of the target.  

Kim Viera’s bleated vocals drive this by-the-numbers offering, featuring rather tepid lyrics and synths which sound like they are straight out of 1998.  

“Boom, boom, knock you out”?  Hardly.

I Got U
Duke Dumont Featuring Jax Jones
Another slice of 1998’s dance, but, in this case, it all works.  This one is going on my Nano.  There’s plenty of space and room with some really sweet, slightly earthy vocals from Jax Jones.  

The skeleton keyboard chords that anchor it all add plenty of tension and atmosphere, while the steel drum pulse that takes over provides a welcome boost of energy and light.  Nothing new, for sure, but not a cliché either.  .

Habits (Stay High)
Tove Lo
Someone’s gettting plenty of love at I ‘Heart’ Radio.  ‘Habits’ is already in high rotation with plenty of positive DJ buzz.  But, poor Tove Lo.  First there’s that name. Well, it’s original, I guess.  And then there’s her current state of affairs.  Seems the girl has got to stay “high all the time” because she is missing her boo. 

With a very Lorde POV, ‘Habits’ feels as claustrophobic as it is privileged.  At this point I feel the whole club kid with nothing else going on has been done to death.  Even Ke$ha and Lindsay Lohan have moved on.  Face it; it’s hard to work up sympathy for a party girl who’s only desire is to remain buzzed enough to not feel anything and whose only goal is to make sure she doesn’t end up alone at the end of the night. 

Yet, that is exactly what Tove Lo manages to do.  ‘Habits’ is as tragic and heartbreaking as it is undeniably catchy.  

Becky G
Oh my!  Singing better be all this young lady is doing in the shower!  Disney pop sure can be annoying as hell.  I mean, I think that’s what this is, though that line “you make me hot like an oven” certainly does not sound very Mickey-friendly at all.

Becky G is an internet Youtube creation, al a Carly Rae Jespeson.  ‘Shower’ pops and clicks with a rapid fire delivery washing into a chorus that strikes me as very Rihanna-lite, stealing one of the core tricks/hooks from ‘Umbrella’ outright.  And the Disney Pop classification is dead on, for Becky G sounds like someone descended from the Demi Levato branch of song – like we need such a thing? 

Good Girls
5 Seconds Of Summer
More pretend punk from the poster boys of 5SOS.  As pop artists go, they’re smart – they never overstay their welcome.  They (or their handlers) know that three minutes is all you really need for this kind of candy – any more than that?  You risk either diabetes or nausea.

All the sharky riffs in the world can’t cover up 5SOS’s boy-band roots.  Rick Springfield used to fire off this kind of power pop all the time, and really, ‘Good Girls’ is not that far a leap from ‘Jessie’s Girl’. So, I guess it’s true; pop will eat itself. 

It certainly does keep coming around to the same spots on the dinner table.

Believe Me
Lil Wayne Featuring Drake
This one starts out promising enough, but quickly devolves into that stupid ‘N’ word repeated over and over, serving as the sole co-rhyme.  So lazy.  So tired.  For every one good line Wayne manages to mumble, he coasts for at least five.  I’m having a hard time thinking this man is relevant anymore.

Drake?   I don’t know.  I guess he’s on there.  Who cares?

I listened to a number of versions of ‘Believe Me’ and every one pitched the ‘vocals’ at a different speed, which seemed like an odd marketing strategy to me.  It debuted in the top 40 and has managed to stay there for a second week, so… could be here to stay for the summer.  But it has no place on radio…  the damn thing is simply so dull.

Pills N Potions
Nicki Minaj
Love her or hate her, you cannot deny how innovative Ms. Minaj has been and remains.  If Lil Wayne is the status quo, and Future is the flava of the month, then Nicki remains the future. 

This chilly little story of a woman wronged simmers at three very different temperatures, with the rap portion revealing the speaker’s smoldering, resigned anger.  And yet, when Nicki sings the words “I still love” a whopping twenty times in a row, one can’t help but feel there is hope for all of us – for that is the moral uplift here – love survives, even after all the crap your beloved puts you through.  

I wish all rap/hip hop could be this wise.    

I Choose You
Sara Bareilles
Bareilles, who hit with ‘Brave’ earlier in the year, has another slight winner on her hands.  The syncopated backdrop buoys up the sweetly cooed melody.  Her vocals are airy and light featuring a slight ache in the back of the throat – all of which brings to mind the vocal style of Paula Cole, though Bareilles’ approach is much less strident.

This is a totally pleasant adult contemporary outing, sure to please her fans and find a place on the Cities 97’s of the world.

Shades Of Cool
Lana Del Rey
Shades’ immediately brings to mind every classic James Bond theme with its familiar chording.  However, the song quickly evolves into Del Rey’s typical icy chanteuse chill, bringing to mind the onset of decay and decline of the empire.

Remote, gothic, and expertly engineered, ‘Shades’ shimmers past us like a doomed luxury cruiser going down for the last time.

I Walk Alone
To everything there is a season… blah, blah, blah.  This is my least favorite track on Cher’s recent release, ‘Closer To The Truth’.  Something about it feels cribbed from Bob Dylan and there is a hokiness found in the original arrangement that makes me push it away like a baby trying pureed spinach for the first time. 

The Tracy Young Ferosh Reconstruction Remix does its best to bring some drama and mystique to the proceedings, while the Funk Generation & H3DRush Remix revs up some energy and fun.  In the end, it’s the JRMX DownTown Club Div A Matic Remix which, though coming on a little by-the-numbers, feels the most natural. However, like that spinach I mentioned earlier, that first taste still remains in my mouth, coloring everything.  Still, it’s managed to stay on the Club Play chart at #2 for the past 2 weeks, so I may well be in the minority here. 


Stan said...

I don't know or listen to much Popular music. I mostly listen to WBLS in the car a black radio station in NYC. They seem to play the music I like to hear but I appreciate your info.

whkattk said...

Well, eventually, all the Disney stars insist on growing up. "Uncle Walt" was pretty tough on his young stars when he controlled everything they did or touched. It's a bit easier for them now.

Got to see Bariellas sing when Obama hit the campaign trail... The thing about her is: she can actually sing. She doesn't need the magic of the studio to sound good.