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Thursday, March 30, 2006

I'm back! First off, thanks for all the comments! I really appreciate it. Also, I got a shout out by Dirrty Pop, the kick ass pop blog that i've been reading forever. She can't stand Clay Aiken but that's okay, LOL. Now for another singer who was also on a reality show!

Javine was in the play The Lion King, just like recent eliminated American Idol finalist Lisa Tucker. After that, she entered Popstars: The Rivals, the 2002 series that spawned Girls Aloud, and a boy band I can't remember. She just barely missed making it into Girls Aloud, which from what I gather was somewhat of a shock at the time (I guess along the lines of Tamyra Gray booted from the first season of American Idol). However, she quickly got back up on her feet and released her own album.

Surrender shows that, if not success wise, at least music-wise Javine was probably happier outside of Girls Aloud. It's a standard r&b-tinged pop album. Although it was released in 2003 and I *acquired* it almost a year ago, I never got around to listening to it until today on my iPod...bad me. =) There are some great tracks on it. Unfortunately, after initial success, the album flopped, and she got dropped. She managed to get another record deal after entering the European Eurovision Song Contest, but she placed third to last and the single didn't sell very well in the UK. She is gearing up to release a cover of Shanice's "I Love Your Smile" soon, and was caught drunk driving. Judging from her album, she has potential and I hope she gets everything together.

Real Things - Hugely successful first single, peaking at #4 in England. I can't believe I didn't listen to it beforehand, because this is hot. It has some hip hop flavor but still with a pop sensibility. Honestly, if this song was released by a well known singer in the U.S., I think it could be a hit here in the states. (Rihanna, cover this song stat! You've already gone incredibly genius pop with "S.O.S." and made it a radio smash.)
Best of My Love - This was a single, but not as successful. I think this might be my favorite song of hers; it combines, pop, hip-hop, and Arabian-sounding flavors.
Surrender (Your Love) - This song sounds like it samples something, but i'm not sure what. It's one of those cool, fun songs with an old-school soul sample in it, although the talky bits in the beginning might not be necessary. Granted, they're probably the only thing that would tell you the artist of this song is British.
All About Us - A sweet, sappy ballad about how having money doesn't compare to being in love, which appears to be a theme of several of her songs. I could see an Idol show winner singing it as their coronation song.
Don't Walk Away (Soda Club Edit) - Pumping cheesy dance/trance remix of her cover of '90s one-hit-wonder girl group Jade. Both the album version and Bad Boy Remix (why it has that name i'm not sure, because there is absolutely no sign of Puff Daddy/P.Diddy/Diddy in it) are somewhat lackluster, but this version rocks.
Touch My Fire - Her Eurovision single from last year. It's a huge pop/dance/Bollywood Arabian extravaganza that deserved far better than it got.

To top it all off, here's a performance of the B-52's "Love Shack" she did on the finale of Popstars with the future members of Girls Aloud. You will notice that she is really really tall and towers over virtually everyone.

Last Updated @ 3:06 PM

Friday, March 24, 2006

1. I'm back home earlier than expected...but i've got a test on Monday.
2. Clay Aiken's brand new album is being released in the U.S. on June 20th. International release? Hopefully. (I like him, okay? But i'll save the huge OTT gushing and songs until it gets closer to that date.)
3. To celebrate, here are some songs from a group of 4 sisters that opened for Clay and Kelly Clarkson on the 2004 Independent Tour, the Beu Sisters.

I Was Only (Seventeen) [Pop Edit] - Their first (and I believe only) single off their debut album. It's more uptempo than the regular version, with sweet harmonies.
What Do You Do In The Summer (When It's Raining) - Promo-only radio single from a second album that seems to have never materialized. It's a fun, shiny, and total boppy '60s-inspired track!
You Make Me Feel Like A Star (Lizzie Mix) - Virtually the same as the version on the album Decisions, except Disney-fied to change certain lyrics (i.e. "I may not be a centerfold") to be appropriate for the Lizzie McGuire movie soundtrack it was on. Uptempo.

What's coming next? I have no idea. Oh, and I switched to z-share on the suggestion of a lovely anonymous visitor. I got 5 comments on my last entry (the 6th was my response, LOL), which makes me feel so great! Thank you guys.

Last Updated @ 8:36 PM

Friday, March 17, 2006

This is the final installment of the Max Martin tribute i've been doing here. Sorry I haven't posted anything in a few days, but i've been really busy with assignments and preparing for my spring break trip to Orlando (don't get too jealous - i'm just visiting my dad). I won't be able to access a computer for pretty much all of next week, so I would've felt guilty if I didn't finish this off.

Anyway...Max (and Luke) hit paydirt again, with Kelly Clarkson. As he is wont to do, Max Martin ran with it and began writing and producing similar-sounding songs for a variety of artists, including the obvious mashup of "Since U Been Gone" and "Shape of My Heart" for the Backstreet Boys' "Just Want You To Know". (Hell, both songs even got a dance remix by Jason Nevins.). So far, none of them have reached the same heights of "Since U Been Gone", but I think they're good regardless. here are some slightly less known tracks.

Marion Raven was one half of Norwegian pop duo M2M, probably best known for the song "Don't Say You Love Me" off the Pokemon soundtrack (shut up...the first CD was good). Now she's also rocking out, with an album that has been doing well in Scandinavia and Asia, with a possible North American release forthcoming. (I'll believe it when I see it...) And we all know who teen pop stars go to nowadays when they want a bit of musical bite with their melodies...she recorded half of her debut solo album with Max Martin and Rami. Her voice is far stronger and mature than before.

Break You - The first single, all good and angry, complete with "Since U Been Gone" ripoff breaking stuff video.
Here I Am - Second single.

End of Me - Third single.
Little By Little
In Spite of Me
Six Feet Under

Next up, another American Idol alumni, fourth season runner-up Bo Bice. In an obvious attempt to replicate the success of Kelly's tracks, Max Martin and Dr. Luke were hired for a couple of tracks on his first album. On the show, his style was more like '70s southern rock than this, and i'm not completely sure if it fits him too well, but the melodies are still good.

U Make Me Better - Because the reason "Since U Been Gone" was so huge was because of its incorrect spelling! :P

Lie... It's Alright

Finally, I bring you to Australian pop duo The Veronicas, made up of Lisa and Jess, two twin sisters. One is dating Ryan Cabrera but i'm not sure which. They also employed Max and Luke for a handful on their debut album, The Secret Life of the Veronicas. Success in their native country has been massive, but unfortunately they haven't been doing nearly as well in America so far.

4Ever - Their debut single, platinum in Australia, and very Kelly-esque, with some harmonies.
4Ever (Claude Le Gauche Radio Edit) - The first single. The original is more obviously influenced by the Kelly songs (anthemic chorus following slower verse, huge guitars), but this is another one of those rock-inflected dance remixes I completely love.
Everything I'm Not - Rumored second single in the U.S. (Still hasn't been decided between this and "When It all Falls Apart.") Slightly slower paced and more melancholy than "4Ever".

So what's in the future for 2006? Well, Max Martin and Dr. Luke are involved in several upcoming projects at the moment, including Pink's comeback album I'm Not Dead in April (tracks including future single "U and Your Hand"...I love them, but I wish they'd quit the "u" crap; it doesn't work for anyone except Prince), several tracks on Kelis' new CD Kelis Was Here, and the first album from former O-Town member Ashley Parker Angel, with several songs, including "I'm Better" and lead single "Let U Go" (WMA streaming links for both tracks).


Last Updated @ 1:59 PM

Monday, March 13, 2006

We're almost to the end of the Max Martin special, but not before detailing his resurgence. By 2004, the typical teen pop sound was out. Pop music was majorly impacted by either r&b or rock influences. The latter came about largely through Avril Lavigne, and then you would get nearly every young female singer trying for a similar sound.

Kelly Clarkson wanted to rock. As the winner of the first season of American Idol, she had to deal with the stigma of being considered a non-versatile, uncool singer, whose career would fade and be limited to cheesy ballads. Although I like those cheesy ballads, that's not what happened. Her debut album was very successful in the U.S., not so much elsewhere. When it came time for her sophomore effort, her label reached out to Max Martin.

By this time, Max was making the rock/teen pop fusion in earnest. He had a new collaborator, Lukask "Dr. Luke" Gottwald, and they would write and produce the songs. One of the last songs submitted for Kelly's album was "Since U Been Gone". The original arrangement was more poppy, but Kelly herself insisted on adding more guitars. Max and Luke were pleasantly surprised, and they went on with creating what would become one of the biggest singles of 2005. They also collaborated with Kelly to co-write "Behind These Hazel Eyes", another hit single off the album. Originally, the lyrics were completely different, but were rewritten shortly before the album's American release in November 2004 (BTW, i've posted the first, U.S. cover, back when she had brown hair...I wish she'd go back to that. She's beautiful, but I think the blonde makes her look washed out.) when her boyfriend dumped her for his ex-girlfriend. With these songs, Kelly managed to finally become huge all over the world!

Since U Been Gone (Rock Da Radio) - Kick-ass dance remix by Jason Nevins. This mix incorporates the guitar riffs of the original into it, unlike the regular Nevins mix that uses more synths.
Since U Been Gone (VH1 Acoustic) - Gives a totally new spin on the song, but I think it works. This is a live, laid back performance that has a lot of feeling, and also some vocal changeups.
Since U Been Gone (Unreal Booty Babes Remix) - Not completely sure of the origin of this, but sounds a lot like Benny Benassi ("Satisfaction" of Wendy's commercial fame). I think this remix was rejected by Kelly's label, and then a group called the "Booty Babes" re-recorded it as a cover that has actually done quite well in Scandinavia.
Since U Been Gone (Select Mix) - Basically an extended version of the original. The more the better, right? :P
Behind These Hazel Eyes (Ultimix) - This remix was done by Joe Bermudez and Josh Harris. This is probably what the album version would have sounded like had it been recorded five or six years ago. It has a more pop, beat-oriented production that makes it sound like a really good early Britney track. Click here to see a new version of the music video edited to a short version of this remix (.mov file).
Behind These Hazel Eyes (Wolf Radio Mix) - In my opinion, this is the best of all the dance remixes to this song. I believe it's unofficial, but it's great. It reminds me of early-mid '90s dance music like Real McCoy, which always made me giddy.
Behind These Hazel Eyes (Dane-E Remix) - Total German/Euro remix along the lines of Cascada. I love that, so this is good. It's basically along the same lines as "Everytime We Touch" - first verse, huge chorus, the pumping reprise of beats doing the same thing. I don't know how to describe it, but if you've heard that song you'll see the similarities. It sounds like it was ripped from vinyl; i'm sorry.
Behind These Hazel Eyes (Ruff Draft Remix) - I guess this is supposed to be a hip-hop remix? I don't know, I like it. There aren't any actual rappers in it, though there's a dude occassionally yelling between the verse and chorus, but it's not distracting. The beats work.

P.S. If anybody knows where I can get a high quality (not radio rip) copy of the Mynt Remix of BTHE I would love you forever, and then share on the blog!

My next post will finish the whole shebang, with all the 2005 output and a look into the future. Enjoy!

Last Updated @ 8:00 PM

Saturday, March 11, 2006

2002 was an unusual year. Both of the big American boy bands, the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, decided to part ways. Or "take a break", whatever. Either way, their best known members went on to make attempts at solo careers. Justin Timberlake and Nick Carter released their solo albums on the same label (Jive Records) within a month of each other. We all know what happened to Justin: Neptunes, Timbaland, superstardom, and exposing Janet Jackson's boob. Nick's solo career was far less successful, which is probably why BSB got back together while several other *NSYNC members are still hanging onto the slim chance that Justin deigns to have a reunion.

I think Nick's album, Now or Never, was underrated. It's not a masterpiece by any means, but it was bashed by many sources when it was a decent pop-rock album with some unique elements (such as a guest appearance by dancehall star Mr. Vegas.) It was also the beginning of Max Martin's new, more rock-influenced sound, which he would later perfect with Kelly Clarkson. The catchy melodies of his former teen pop sound were combined with loud, harder guitars as opposed/in addition to the synthesized beats. He did three tracks on the album; maybe if there were more, it could've done better. Who knows?

I Got You - Third and final single off the CD, only released overseas. It's not as rocky as the other tracks, it's slightly more ballad-y, but it's more of a driving rock ballad along the lines of Bryan Adams (whom Nick was clearly influenced by in his solo endeavors) as opposed to the pure teen ballads of earlier.
Blow Your Mind - "Since U Been Gone" prototype. Not quite as good, but it's an early example. It has the blow out rock chorus customary of the Max Martin songs today.
I Just Wanna Take You Home - Slightly slower, but still upbeat. Would probably be the "Behind These Hazel Eyes" to "Blow Your Mind"'s SUBG.

OK, things will be finished up soon. Max Martin did pretty much nothing in 2003 to speak of, so i'm going to skip right to '04 and '05, with Kelly and her direct descendants, including The Veronicas, Marion Raven, and Bo Bice.

Last Updated @ 9:48 PM

Thursday, March 09, 2006

OMG OMG Don't Stop The Pop gave me a shoutout on their front page *fangirly shriek* Here's what they said: "This is one of the BEST popblogs out there. I wish I'd found it earlier!!!" I love that site. Anyway...just getting into the mindset of a teenybopper in the early '00s before I watch people get eliminated on American Idol tonight. (Kellie Pickler annoys me greatly, but i'm not delusional enough to think she's going tonight.)

At the end of 2000, Max Martin closed Cherion, and started another studio called Maratone. 2001 was a quiet year for them, with only a handful of tracks on Britney's half-self-titled third album. This is around the stage when teen pop was rapidly becoming unpopular in the United States, and Britney ran to the Neptunes and other hip-hop producers to "cool" up her image. Honestly, the Max Martin tracks on Britney are not the best work of either ("Bombastic Love"? Come on.) so I can't completely blame her.

Overprotected - Third single off the album, and by far the best one Max did on it.
Overprotected (Darkchild remix) - The American single version, remixed by hip-hop producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins. However, even that didn't make it successful.
I'm Not A Girl (Not Yet A Woman) [Spanish Fly Remix Radio Edit] - Okay, i'll put it out there right here. I liked Crossroads. I saw it in the theaters twice (although the second was in a dollar store theater where there was nothing else good on) and bought the DVD. This song was co-written by Dido, and had cheesy lyrics, but as a young teenage girl, I could relate to it. If there is such a thing as songs with "Britney's best vocals", this would probably be one. This is a nice dance remix of it.

2002 is up next. It was another slow year, with the exception of Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter's underrated flop of a solo album. Don't worry, we're just gearing up for what we all know is coming...

Last Updated @ 3:21 PM

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More Britney, from her huge second album, which had the highest first week sales (1.3 million) for a female artist. It's very similar to her first (and the lead singles were almost the same), but I consider it somewhat more solid. Songs like "What U See is What U Get" are relegated to filler here, when they no doubt would've been singles had they been on her debut. (Just turn it off after track 11 and pretend "Dear Diary" doesn't exist.)

Oops! I Did It Again (Music Breakdown Mix) - The version played on the radio, without that dumbass Titanic ripoff "acting" in the middle.
Lucky (Junior Vasquez Almost Lucky Club Mix) - Dance remix of the second single. People always made fun of this song and video because she was whining about celebrity life, basically, but I always liked it.
Can't Make You Love Me - Good album track.

Last Updated @ 3:16 PM

Sorry for not posting in a few days, I had some stuff to do, I guess. I got a kick ass new flat screen monitor!! The better to see music videos with...Anyway, I didn't think I was going to be able, but since I finished by class assignments quicker than I thought I would, back to the pop!!

2000 was even bigger. *NSYNC surged past the Backstreet Boys to become the most successful boy band of the year. Their album sold 2.4 million copies in one week, and with the state of today's record industry, that record will probably never be broken. While they were extremely huge in the United States, they never reached the same heights overseas. The success they had was largely based on the smash hit single "Bye Bye Bye". While produced by the Cherion team, Max Martin actually did not have a direct involvement in that song, which was written by Rami. However, he did co-write and -produce the second single, "It's Gonna Be Me", which was, believe it or not, *NSYNC's only #1 single. It's a great song that had a slew of remixes. My favorite was done by Maurice Joshua, who is best known for remixing almost every Destiny's Child/Beyonce song in existence. It was the b-side to the American single, and I love the uplifting breakdown.

It's Gonna Be Me (Maurice Joshua Mix)

Last Updated @ 3:06 PM

Friday, March 03, 2006

Before the year 1999 came to a close, Celine Dion released her greatest hits album. Actually, it was half greatest hits and half brand new tracks. By far the best one was the first single (and biggest hit) from the collection, "That's The Way It Is". Max Martin expanded beyond teen pop stars to work with Celine. It has an inspiring sound and inspiring lyrics that fit her perfectly and make me deliriously happy whenever I hear it.

That's The Way It Is (Metro Club Mix) - Even more upbeat! One of Celine's best remixes.

Last Updated @ 7:52 PM

What is there left to be said about Britney Spears? At times, her controversy has often overshadowed her talent. Often, it has been said that there is barely any talent there in the first place. Max Martin was sometimes criticized in connection for allowing her career to exist. That part is probably true. If the folks at Jive Records had never come across "...Baby One More Time", and TLC hadn't rejected it, Britney would be in backwoods Louisiana today, with a redneck husband that is still better than Kevin Federline.

Whatever my personal opinion of Britney, her image, and her actions; it is an undisputed fact that she served as a vessel for some of the best pop songs of the past ten years. It could be said that she lent relatively little to the songs, but to me it doesn't matter. I know the first time I heard her debut single on the radio, it was refreshing from what was out at the time, and that it would be huge. The boy bands were striking it big, but Britney was the first to represent the female side. Yes, Christina Aguilera has the best voice and best musicality, but even when she came out, she seemed somewhat above the simple pleasures of a pure cheesy pop track. Today she almost disavows her great #1 hit "Genie in a Bottle". I doubt we would ever hear Britney dissing her early singles. And I appreciate her deeply for it, even if she is now a shell of her former self.

Baby One More Time (Boy Wonder Radio Mix) - Her first single is iconic, but this is a spin on the icon. It's a fun dance remix that came on some import copies of her first album.
(You Drive Me) Crazy (Jazzy Jim's Hip-Hop Mix) - The original version was a decent song, but the production wasn't all there. Make it pump, tweak the second verse, and add a "STOP!" and you get Britney's third hit single. The "Stop Remix" is the version on her Greatest Hits CD. This version retains the "STOP!" (ha ha, I love that), but adds a bit more funkiness. It was the b-side to the American single for her ballad "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart".
Born To Make You Happy (Bonus Remix) - This song was blasted by many critics for what was said to be the anti-feminist message of the lyrics: "I don't know how to live without your love/I was born to make you happy" In all honesty, I just don't take pop music that seriously. Besides, dependence is a common lyrical theme in teen pop from both male and female acts alike. It was released as a single in Europe. This version sounds almost like a different song, with Britney singing it differently, and a peppy guitar background as opposed to the almost haunting electronic pop background of the original.

OK, so sometime this weekend i'll put up the 2000 songs. It's pretty much more BSB, Britney, and *NSYNC - and more success for Max Martin. He won the ASCAP award for Songwriter of the Year twice, meaning that his songs were played on radio more than anyone else's. Enjoy!

Last Updated @ 7:14 PM

Sorry for not posting for a few days! I've been busy for a few days searching for certain songs I swear I had, plus other stuff. But I guess i'll just bite the bullet and continue. 1999 was a huge year for Max Martin. *NSYNC kept riding the success of their debut, and he was instrumental in the astonishing success of a young singer named Britney Spears (more on her next post). It was also the year the Backstreet Boys took it to another level. Their second U.S. album (and third international CD), Millennium, dropped in '99, and shattered the record for the highest first week sales of any album. It was well deserved, IMO.

I Want It That Way (Morales Club Mix) - One of the classic pop singles of all time, and just as good seven years after it was released. It's a catchy song in any form, as this remix proves. David Morales is best known for doing lots of amazing remixes for Mariah Carey. Unlike his work with Mariah, BSB didn't record their vocals, but he worked extremely well with the original acapella. Jack D. Elliot did a good remix too, which is available on the soundtrack to the teen flick Drive Me Crazy. I believe this mix only appeared on an extremely rare import CD single, which I don't actually own
Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely (Jason Nevins Mix) - The original is a touching, quality ballad with amazing production, strings, and vocals. The music video is a tribute to Max Martin's collaborator and close friend, Denniz PoP, who unfortunately died of cancer in 1998. I chose this version because it's rarer. It's not a dance remix, but slightly more upbeat with more beats. I swear I remember hearing it on the radio once in early 2000, on Power 96 before they became all rap all the time.

I used to have this extended-type remix of "It's Gotta Be You", a cool album track, but I lost it and can't find it anywhere, unfortunately...if I manage to acquire it again one day i'll upload it for you guys. Please forgive me. :(

Last Updated @ 6:59 PM