Thursday, October 31, 2013

Recent Work: Talking about Cher in the Irish Independent



If you weren't all Cher-ed up when her album came out here a few weeks ago, you should check out this piece I did on her admirable honesty in pop for last week's Irish Independent in the Day and Night mag.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Sex and Smarts: Lady Gaga and R.Kelly team up for Do What You Want

In just over five years Lady Gaga has achieved the kind of success most popstars would struggle to achieve in ten. And as much as she's a star whose success relied on the always-on 24 hour media whirl we live in now, it's the same system that can make her seem she's no longer "relevant". She's griped recently about feeling misunderstood (like this excellent Guardian interview) and made a video that played with all the internet chatter about her just before Applause dropped.



Yesterday ahead of new song Do What You Want (one of a handful of songs that aren't singles that she'll be unveiling before new album ARTPOP arrives next month) debuting Gaga went on a Twitter rant, linking to videos and images of things people have said about over her career from her weight to what Madonna thinks of her. In one way it can be seen as her throwing her toys out of the pram (and how boring is it when popstars say they don't write for the charts? sigh) but it's an oddly self aware flip of the bird from someone who has more of a mask up in public than her contemporaries.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Self-help Quotes, Bubblegum and the Big Leagues: Katy Perry Prism Review


Banal yet brilliant, cutting yet corporate, Katy Perry occupies a strange place in the pop sphere. 2010's Teenage Dream was only her second album but it turned her into a chart juggernaut. From California Gurls through to Firework and then two huge hits from a reissue, Perry ended up with 6 number ones on the US' Billboard Hot 100, the kind of staggering feat that comes from a heady mix of big tunes, big marketing and a star relentlessly out to up their pop game.

Katy and co bring you some new tunes


Head over to GCN.ie now and you'll catch this week's Friday Four with the new Katy Perry single, James Vincent McMorrow, Ghost Beach and the amazing Lulu Jones.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: AlunaGeorge and MØ at The Academy Dublin (16/10/13)


Before either Aluna or George arrive on the stage at The Academy they've nearly had the whole thing whipped out from under their noses. It's rare to find yourself won over by an opening act but between gyrating on the floor and throwing herself on top of every available surface Mø does a fine job of just that.  

A look at the casual homophobia of Eminem's new tune



After some tweets on this yesterday Una Mullally asked me to do a guest post for her Irish Times blog Pop Life on the new Eminem tune Rap God and his use of homophobic language. It surprised me how few people were talking about it and realised that it's part of a wider acceptance of what made him so shocking in the first place.

Read the full piece here

Recent Pop Tunes You May Enjoy



I'm about to prep tomorrow's Friday Four post for GCN.ie but if you missed last week music from Lady Gaga, TLC, Bastille and Jessie Ware and Julio Bashmore are still worth a look

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lorde, New Stuff And A Hidden Gem: Mutya Keisha Siobhan's Amazing Acoustic Session



Pop music geeks have been in a tizzy over the reunited Mutya Keisha Siobhan (aka the original Sugababes line-up aka the Origibabes aka the Pop Reunion Nobody Expected) and in a way it's hard not to blame them. The Sugababes may now be tarnished by line-up changes and an ever changing sound but the bones of what their voices did together on those early songs still sound fresh and interesting.

The group's first release proper as MKS was rather brilliant Flatline which sadly didn't set the charts on fire. Given how the girls have said they reformed for themselves it's easy to see why they might want to be something of a cult proposition but in a climate when Pop Acts That Are Pop Acts But Everyone Pretends Aren't like HAIM and Chvrches are flourishing it doesn't seem odd to think MKS could have a broader appeal.

The album is due early next year (This Billboard article has some interesting detail on tracks on it including a track from Sia) and while the band performed some new stuff at a gig in August, this acoustic session that's just appeared online is a reminder of just how promising this whole affair could be, offering up a forgotten Sugababes gem, a promising new song and a cover that offers up something fresh.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Cher's Closer To The Truth - Track by Track On Her Pop Comeback


Cher's new album is arriving in Ireland on Friday and in the UK Monday following her appearance on The X-Factor this weekend. It's easy to dismiss her but the new album is half pop-dance gems and half well realised ballads. If you're in Ireland you stream it in full at GCN now and wherever you are you can read my track by track thoughts on the album there too.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Female Rebel Yell: Miley Cyrus "Bangerz" Review


"I'm a female rebel, can't you tell?" Miley Cyrus deadpans early into new album Bangerz. And given the year she's had (and we've had with her) it's hard to disagree with that kind of sentiment.

Bangerz comes just as MTV debuts a documentary where she talks "talking over the whole world" with "more than just a record" and a year that's had her "shock the world" via the MTV VMAs and respond rather rudely to Sinead O'Connor's open-letter hand wringing over her new found love of using her body to mark out her adulthood. 

The teen star grows up by getting sexy thing is a mold that certainly fits where Cyrus has landed but there's more to it than just "I'm grown now so there goes my clothes". 

Cyrus has always been something of a gawky presence even at the peak of her Hannah Montana fame, her stage presence having a kind of off beat energy that suggested that her drawly, country-tinged voice and her knack for fanning controversy would see her past her TV days.

So in an odd way, for her to swing her sound into a country-pop-R'n'B hybrid seems like the awkward and all over the place a move as you'd expect from a 20-year old multi millionaire who has spent a chunk of their almost-adult life in public.

You desperately want Bangerz to be a killer pop album. Especially as the Sinead O'Connor back and forth exposes Cyrus in lacking a degree of tact and yet another over the top collab with Terry Richardson emerges showing even more of the starlet. But can it ever really live up to such controversy-baiting hype?

Britney's Hidden Gems and New Music on GCN





If you've not been over to GCN today then there's a playlist of hidden gems of a one Miss Britney Spears that is worth a look and also this week's Friday Four which is loaded with incredible songs from Sia, Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX and Katy B. Consider it a nice little kickstart to the weekend on me.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rihanna Debuts Pour It Up Video, Pop Continues to Worship The Pole Dance

Rihanna hasn't made any secret of her love for strip clubs as evidenced by her many Instagram shots of her pole dance related nights out. And her single Pour It Up, the woozy Mike Will Made It produced cut from 2012's Unapologetic already had something of a strip-club anthem status before the much-delayed video ever saw the light of day.




This evening RiRi finally debuted the clip (After a Twitter spat with it's director and her working on the promo for next single What Now) and as expected it's got ass shots everywhere and plenty of undeniably impressive pole aerobics.


6 Things You May Have Missed in Britney's Work Bitch Video

The new Britney video is here! And in less than 24 hours it's clocked up plenty of chatter and had us wondering if sharks, large cars and questionable S&M imagery will feature in Miss Spears' much hyped Vegas residency.


There is lots to love about Work Bitch. Britney looks present and into it in a way she hasn't been in years. She's doing dancing that's actually faintly intricate and impressive, even if there's plenty of fast cuts away so we never see her do too much back to back. It's kind of like one of those really stupid Michael Bay directed ads for Victoria Secret given a Britney makeover.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

5 Pharrell Songs That You Should Give A Second Look

Photo via Flickr / Avi Loud

Summer is now but a distant memory but the impact of Pharrell Williams on the pop landscape after that season is still being felt. From singing on Daft Punk's Get Lucky, the universally loved pop earworm of the year to producing Robin Thicke's controversial but massively successful Blurred Lines he placed his stamp on two songs that are likely to inform much of how the chart sounds over the next year.




He's back as a producer du jour now assisting Kelly Rowland, Jennifer Hudson, Nelly et al on songs and lending his weight to Miley Cyrus' hip-hop tinged reinvention, which comes full circle this week with the world getting to listen to her new album Bangerz, on which Williams has produced several tracks.

Of course this isn't the first time Williams has been in demand, the early 2000s were dominated by Williams and Chad Hugo using The Neptunes mix of brittle funk and sleek R&B to give every second song on the charts a shot of cool. But as much as we know the big hits there are some other songs that Williams has sang on / produced in / been involved with that which should have been huge. Here are handful of ones I think are worth a look.

Madonna - Beat Goes On

Madonna's 2008 opus Hard Candy was unfairly maligned if you ask me. Pharrell handled production on several key tracks, including the underrated single Give It 2 Me (I wrote about that song for Idolator's Hard Candy piece). The real gem though is this shimmer-y 80s tinged number that sounds bouncy and forward thinking but also has a simplicity and ease that recalls Into The Groove. The Kanye West feature is the icing on an already sweet, sweet pop treat and it's a real shame this wasn't ever a single. At least the live performance on The Sticky and Sweet Tour was amazing:


   

N.E.R.D - Hypnotize U 

The success of N.E.R.D was really a testament to the kind of golden touch Pharrell had at one point and also N.E.R.D's killer mix of rock and hip-hop that made genre straddling classics like She Wants To Move. 2010's album Nothing wasn't much of a success for the group but the Daft Punk produced Hypnotize U is an absolute lost gem. Given the success of a Daft Punk produced song with Pharrell on vocals this summer, it's a shame someone didn't think to re-release this and cash in. 


 

Leah LaBelle - Lolita

This summer this slinky cut debuted with a video directed by Diane Martel who also helmed the clip for Blurred Lines. While Blurred Lines blew up this failed to set the charts alight which is a shame. LaBelle has been floating around YouTube for a few years and had a short stint on American Idol but her work with Jermaine Dupri and Pharrell suggests she may have a hit in her yet. It really should have been in the shape of this track which has an easy groove but plenty of bite, even if this weird popcultural fixation on Lolita is in fact a tad creepy. Still, what a tune:


Jennifer Lopez - Fresh Out The Oven feat. Pitbull

When J Lo and Pitbull made On The Floor one of 2011's biggest hits I'm sure Pharrell was a bit miffed, given that he'd put the pair together on a fair less successful single back in 2009. Fresh Out The Oven was meant to tease a new J Lo album Love? which took a couple of years to finally arrive which also saw this tune flatline on the charts. 

This is still an unusual sound for J Lo. Her delivery on the verses isn't the best, a slightly grating tone to her voice ruining the would-be sexy come-ons but that chorus is still delightfully kooky. It's all feathery and to the point but also a proper ear-worm. And even the Pitbull bit isn't too awful. Plus it all drops out at the end for a weird post chrous production meltdown that still sounds deliciously odd. An interesting moment for both Pharrell and J. Lo.


  

Adam Lambert - Kickin' In

Adam Lambert's 2012 album Trespassing boasted impressive work with Nile Rodgers, Pharrell and Bonnie McKee among others. The result was mainly interesting if hardly groundbreaking pop but on certain tracks Lambert let his voice and personality really run riot and the results were often impressive. Amongst those is this stellar cut from Pharrell that's got tumbling snyths, sass by the bucketload and even some cowbell. It's got buckets of charm and it shows that even when he wasn't landing a trillion singles in the top 10, Pharrell was still making killer pop songs.