Soul patrol, whoo hooo! Just kidding. Anyway, Taylor Hicks won American Idol, and will be around to spaz all over the American pop scene, or whatever's left of it. I'll keep you posted. A great new blog from a Canadian, Poptastichas the studio version of his first single, "Do I Make You Proud", which isn't great but at least isn't Katharine McPhee's "My Destiny". There's a lot of great stuff on that page...on the AI tip, there's a cheesy Almighty cover of the booted contestant theme "Bad Day", as sung by Belle Lawrence. It has generally recieved a bad response from many corners, but i'm a freak that likes it.
I also promised i'd update on the latest regarding McFly. In their album's debut week in the U.S., it reached the lofty height of #25 on the Billboard Heatseekers album chart, which is for albums by new artists that have never charted on the main chart. So they basically went in at #225, or possibly lower. Oof.
In terms of general chart news, apparently Gnarls Barkley are deleting their single "Crazy" from production, and also removing it from download, because it has topped the U.K. charts for an astonishing nine weeks. Two things: 1) Am I the only one who doesn't 'get' them? Judging from only that song, it's not bad, but I don't see what's so superlatively amazing about it, where people who don't already have it are STILL buying it. 2) Is this bizarro chart universe or something? One song hogs the UK chart for months, while in the U.S. songs are changing hands again and again, which is how I personally like it. After two weeks of Rihanna's genius-yet-unoriginal "SOS" on the top spot, this past week it's been "Ridin'" by Chamillionaire, one of the few rappers that doesn't sound like utter shit when singing his own choruses.
Anyway, now for the songs. There are some specific artists i'm planning on featuring soon, but I haven't receieved some stuff, and i'm kind of anal about being comprehensive. =) I just wanted to post some stuff. The subject is self-explanitory: dance remixes of pop songs. They play a huge part in my neverending iPod workout playlist, but they're still cool to listen to even sitting down. I like remixes that put new spins on songs. The extended remix is possibly anthetical to the typical aesthetic of the perfect three and a half minute pop song, but in many cases I enjoy the beats and how the producers play with the vocals. Most of the time, i'm not much of a fan of dubs, though - they take too much of the melody out for my tastes. Enjoy!!
Oh, and the songs I didn't write a blurb on are just as good as the ones I did. It's past 2 a.m., please forgive me. ;)
Kelly Clarkson - The Trouble With Love Is (Bermudez and Bertoldo Deliquent Cupid Radio Mix) - The music is pretty uplifting for a song with such melancholy lyrics, but the contrast just makes it seem even greater in my eyes. This song deserved to be a far bigger hit than it was in any form. Bonus: The Trouble With Love Is (Live Independent Tour 2004 Philadelphia) - I was so excited for my show anyway, but when she was performing this song and went from the slower original to this remix, I was elated. Kelly herself probably liked the mix somewhat if she did that, and it reminded me of the great late '90s craze of ballad-to-uptempo versions of diva songs (ex: Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart", Deborah Cox's "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here".) They should do that more often now, in my opinion. Marie Serenholt - That's The Way My Heart Goes (The Attic Club Mix) Samantha Mumba - Baby Come On Over (ATFC Chilled Vintage Vocal) - I used to love this girl so much, and I still think she was great. Her debut single "Gotta Tell You" was one of the few from British or Irish (she's the latter) pop stars that broke through in America, peaking in the top 5. This song was the U.S. follow-up that wasn't nearly as successful, and a later single in the UK. Despite consistently high chart placings and decent album sales, her second album was never released, aside from one single. I will never understand that. Kate DeAraugo - Faded (Reactor Mix) - Second single from the third winner of Australian Idol. The original sounds like an especially good Kelly Clarkson ripoff in the guitar-pop style. This makes it cheesier and more dance-poppy. Destiny's Child - Independent Women Part I (Maurice's Radio Mix) Girls Aloud - The Show (Bang Bang Klub Vocal)- Good use of guitars, more of a rock-influenced dance mix, which i've been getting into lately. Kaci Brown - Unbelieveable (Chris Cox Radio Mix) - She's a new singer that plays the piano and is 17 years old, yet is rumored to be dating Backstreet Boys' AJ McLean after serving as one of their opening acts last year. I prefer her songs like this, as opposed to the hip hop influenced tracks, such as "Instigator" and that song that mentions Dora the Explorer, that sound like a bad parody at times. S Club 7 - You're My Number One (Almighty Mix) - Pure cheese, but I fricking love it. NERD - Rock Star (Jason Nevins Remix) - This is a few years old (like some of these tracks), but I just discovered it after going to the movies several times and being bombarded with clips and previews of Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (speaking of: it's one thing when Vin Diesel doesn't do the sequel, but when Paul Walker isn't willing to show up, you should just quit.). I have absolutely no interest in seeing it, but this song (pun intended) completely rocks. It actually makes me able to listen to Pharrell sing without wanting to gouge out my eardrums. Rob Thomas - Lonely No More (Jason Nevins Radio Mix) - Another of the rock-influenced mixes Jason Nevins has recently been known for. Deja Vu ft. Tasmin - Measure of a Man (Transsensual Mix) - Sorry, but I had to post this. Y'all might know of my affection for Clay Aiken, and might know of his new haircut as shown on the American Idol 5 finale. I like it, I must admit (although whoever posted on LiveJournal that it makes him look like Matt Willis - it really doesn't. But if it means that there'll be a song on his new album - out this fall! - that is as good as "Up All Night", i'll take it.) . Not as if I have any cred anyway. :) This is the title track of his album that was covered as the b-side to Pop Idol 2 runner-ups Sam and Mark's #1 Beatles cover "With a Little Help of My Friends". Interestingly, their career only lasted for one more single before they were dropped and went to TV presenting. Obviously, it's been given the cheesy 'trance' cover treatment (check the name of the mix). In the U.S., Deja Vu and Tasmin (whoever they are) are best known, if you could call it that, for their version of Celine Dion's infamous Titanic smash "My Heart Will Go On". Jessica Simpson - With You (Mike Rizzo Radio Mix)
First off, head on over to Don't Stop The Pop to download a version of "DNA" by Mania that does *not* explode after several listens. Thank you!
...please come back, okay?...
This post is by request of sorts. I was planning to save this artist for later, but some of my lovely commenters forced my hand. ;) I present Moonbaby!
Moonbaby was another Xenomania project, being the stage name of Miranda Cooper, a long-running writer with the team. Seriously, look at the credits for their hits up to this day, and she's on them.
Her solo career lasted for one single in 2000, "Here We Go", which missed the top 75 of the UK charts. The song was later recycled for Lene's (of Aqua) solo album Play With Me, and later by Girls Aloud on What Will the Neighbours Say?. As a result, her album was never released, and there was only a promo CD with four tracks.
Thanks to Frisbee (who doesn't have a blog or else i'd link it), i've acquired all these songs, as well as the songs on her only single!
Here We Go - I get how this could have been considered too 'wierd' to be a successful single, especially by an unknown act, when Xenomania were primarily known for remixes as opposed to original songwriting work. It's a fun song, if you're on here you probably know it in some form. If you don't, check it out. Deadlines and Diets - Another track later used by Girls Aloud, a laid-back midtempo ballad. This is different than that arrangement (unlike the almost identical instrumental used in all three versions of "Here We Go"), because it's almost five minutes long. Honestly, I find Moonbaby/Miranda's voice to be a bit weak (though I tolerate that when the songs are great, like here), and I far prefer GA's version of this because I think Nadine Coyle's stronger vocals work better with the song. Of course, it's all a matter of opinion, so download it and see what you think. I'm Thru With Love - '60s-inspired track, done several years before the release of Emma Bunton's Free Me album. There are some bossa nova influences in it. Moonbaby - Nothing better than having your own theme song! It's bumping dance pop with a great beat, which makes me wonder what could have been.
Kitsch Bitch Kool - The freaking AMAZING b-side to "Here We Go". It's a frantic, uptempo poptacular ride that is also on the longer side. In my opinion, this should have been the single...maybe London Records wouldn't have dropped her, but then again, that label was ill-fated anyway. This was the song that was requested in the comments, and now you all can hear it!! Here We Go [Capoeira Twins Golightly Mix] - It's a sort of breakbeat take on the song, and the remix on the single. It's not exactly a pumping dance mix. I'd compare it most to "Overload" by the Sugababes.
Back in another few days with more musings and songs.
Mania was a duo made up of two of the co-writers of the infamously genius Xenomania team, whose writing credits include such tracks as "Sound of the Underground", "Round Round", and "No Good Advice". They struck out on their own (well, together) in 2004, and were another group I didn't take notice of during their brief career. I'll have them explain themselves, in the official bio from their official site that now only exists in Google caches:
It began in a kitchen. Or, more accurately, outside a kitchen. "I heard Niara before I met her," says Giselle, "she was sat at the kitchen table and I was walking past the door. She's got a big mouth and a big laugh..." That was the start of Mania. Two girls, Niara and Giselle, with completely diverse backgrounds: the former loud and lairy, the latter contained and considered (comparably so, anyway) Niara: from a football-team-sized family, from inner city London, who left school at 15. Giselle: an only child from the suburbs, who qualified as a masseur before travelling the world. The former black, the latter white. Both with bags of attitude. Mania met a few years ago at Xenomania, under the artistic direction of Brian Higgins, the creative house/home of a team of songwriters which have produced some of the most addictive chart tracks on the radio. Niara Scarlett, had hung around with Xenomania for three years contributing to Girls Aloud's 'Sound Of The Underground' and Sugababes 'Hole In The Head', 'Round Round' and 'In The Middle'. Giselle Sommerville was concentrating on writing her own songs but was stuck in a girl band. She’d known Higgins from way back and began collaborating with Xenomania two years ago while at music college in Brighton. "I wrote with Niara one day and I knew instantly that she was into the same stuff that I was into", says Giselle. "We wrote some good tunes together. That's how we met, we struck a chord." "Both of us knew we'd have a career in writing…" continues Giselle, before Niara, as usual, butts in. "I knew that I had a wicked voice and that I HAD to be a singer," she says, in typically balls-out fashion. "We weren't sure we wanted to be in a group, we both wanted to be solo artists, but her voice and my voice together, you can't really lose, you know what I mean?" They realised they had certain things in common so they started to write together to fill time. Though from very different backgrounds, the pair came together over a shared love of black music like Erika Badu, Jill Scott, India and The Chimes. Though they both had other influences, it was always powerful, soulful singers that inspired them and focused their efforts. "We had co-written so many wicked songs that most artists just could not sing, so that's where this project came from," continues Niara. "Some songs are just too wicked, too massive!" Mania do home-grown pop with panache, ranging from left field lullabies to frisky fucked-up funk. "We're gonna blow people's socks off, you know what I mean, 'cos I'm blown away myself," says Niara of Mania's live sound which is enhanced by a four-piece band. Rewind to Sussex in the early nineties and Giselle was busy listening to The Cure and Guns 'n' Roses until she was taken to a Soul II Soul concert in Brighton. From then on it was about buying vinyl in Rough Trade or Camden market and blagging into the Ministry of Sound on a Saturday night. "I'll never forget India performing 'I can't get no sleep' in that big room. She made me want to sing. I played that record over and over again." She moved to Shepherd’s Bush, trained as a beauty therapist, did a sports massage course and then pushed off to India. After travelling she bumped into Brian again and the rest you know. Meanwhile Niara was in Kentish Town, surrounded by "about ten brothers and five sisters that I know of, but I know there's more out there. My dad's Jamaican," she says by way of explanation." As a kid her mother would play Marvin Gaye, Lover's Rock and Bob Marley while her brothers would be blasting swingbeat and New Jack Soul. Niara had yet to become obsessed with Mary J Blige and En Vogue. Her first gig, was with hardcore heroes Ratpack and, in a ten year song-writing and performing career that’s encompassed soul, house, jungle and pop, she’s worked and written with MJ Cole, Cinematic Orchestra, Roots Manuva and countless others. She was put in touch with Brian, joined his team of writers and, finally, met Giselle. "Our music crosses quite a few genres." starts Giselle "It's just good music," interrupts Niara. "Whether you like it or not our songs are going to come back into your head. That's what's been missing for a long time. There's been so much shit – you get a beautiful girl with a lovely smile, but actually she can't sing, she doesn't write and the fucking music is shit." "This band just gives me goosebumps," she says, "I get so excited. I’m like, 'hold me back!'"
Niara and Giselle's recording career unfortunately only existed until one single, the funky "Looking For a Place" and the b-side "If You Need a Good Girl" (not a Backstreet Boys semi-remake). Its unjustly low chart placing meant the end of Mania, and the scheduled album Do You Know Your Daughter's On the Roof? was never released. A sampler with six tracks was made and sent to promo-only hell. I acquired what I thought was this sampler on eBay, but was a completely different one with only snippets of five songs. I finally managed to get the songs by paying 20 bucks to a Russian website of dubious legality, which appeared to be the only place in the universe that had it. Fortunately, it seems as they haven't fucked with my bank account yet. So now I present it to you, the (mostly) complete discography of Mania!!
All of these are produced and written by Xenomania. "Close" is more of a ballad, but it's more like a "Deadlines and Diets" type ballad as opposed to a typical one. My favorite is by far "Money in My Pocket".
D.N.A - This is only available through a free download WMA file as a promo. The link is to the site. Not bad, right? Well, now that i'm trying to share it with you guys, I can't. I'm sorry for doing another segment of "blogger begs for tech help", but this file is truly evil. Unfortunate, because the song is damn good, with that kind of strumming guitar work throughout like a slower, stripped-down "Grafitti My Soul". It'll give you the license fine, but there's a limited number of plays and the license doesn't allow you to burn it to a CD, which I normally do to get some of these songs to you. I never got around to putting it on my iPod, and I can't with the format, but you're also not allowed to transfer the song to any device. I've tried to do some shit with Winamp that used to work but no longer does. Tunetribe costs money and the free trial only lasts 30 seconds, so i'm not going to use it (or go to some porn/warez site to find a code, no thanks), but if you already own it maybe you can do it?? So you can download and listen for who knows how many times (I'm down to my last :( ), and if you're bored, possibly find a way to crack it. You guys came through the last time I had a computer problem, so i'm hoping you can find a solution here too (while jamming out to the other songs, maybe?) I'm doing this for y'all! ;) If You Need a Good Girl
Mania as a duo split awhile back, but they're still doing things. Giselle still seems to be writing for artists under the Xenomania umbrella, while Niara's credits stop a few years ago, and she was last seen doing a hip-hop track. Several of their songs, including "Money in My Pocket" and "I'm Not Shy", have been covered by aspiring girl band Frank (band in the instrument playing sense), who have their own TV show and will be an opening act on Girls Aloud's Chemistry Tour. If there is any interest, i've also uploaded several Mania videos (their only music video "Looking for a Place", the making of that video, and a clip of a CD:UK performance - sang live!) to YouTube.
Oh, and here is a McFly in the U.S. update: Just My Luck made $5 million in its debut weekend, being Lindsay Lohan's lowest opening ever. Won't sell too many albums. There was actually quite a bit of the group in the movie (which I saw today and was cute), which is a nice change from the American edits of movies that seem to remove any references to British pop stars (watch the Region 1 DVD of Love, Actually sometime. They actually dub over the Girls Aloud remake of "Jump" with the Pointer Sisters original during Hugh Grant's big dance scene, and it doesn't work because it was obviously shot to the fastest-paced cover. I'm surprised they left the subplot about Billy Mack fighting for the Christmas #1 vs. Blue intact and didn't try to change it to 98 Degrees or something.) and this would be a genius marketing tactic if it was part of a multi-pronged promotional scheme, but it's the only thing they're doing.
Back in another few days, probably. Features coming up include more unreleased albums/samplers and recycled songs, the latter being those passed around to various pop stars in hopes that one of them has a hit with them, such as the aformentioned Mania/Frank situation, and more imported shit that's maxing out my credit card!
How about that McFly? Like I mentioned, their American debut album, Just My Luck, dropped yesterday. They've been tooling around the UK since 2004, grabbing #1 singles and Brit Awards and breaking records. I didn't really notice them when they first came out, but now I like Tom Fletcher, Danny Jones, Dougie Poynter and Harry Judd and their pop-rock stylings. They were part of the same management as Busted, and initially marketed as a mini-Busted, although their '60s inspired sound on some tracks was a bit different. However, one of the lead singers Tom has co-written many songs for Busted, and James Bourne has returned the favor. Just My Luck is basically a compilation of both their albums, their debut Room on the 3rd Floor, and last year's more mature and slightly more modern Wonderland, plus one new song.
Universal/Island is obviously (ha ha - great song by them) banking on the Lindsay Lohan movie of the same name (released to theaters this Friday in the U.S. and July in the U.K.) to do the work to sell this album. I've seen virtually no promotion other than the ads for that flick, which barely show McFly in them anyway. Their lead single is "I've Got You", but i've heard it nowhere other than in the piped in movie theater sattelite radio network when I saw Mission Impossible 3 this weekend. (Seriously, I liked it, and i'm not generally a fan of action movies OR Tom Cruise. There are several moments where his character looks like an ass, and i'm not sure if that wasn't on purpose...) The video appears to be a live performance one, which in my opinion looks a bit lazy for an introduction to a new act. It appears to be the same as the original British cut, except with intercut scenes of the movie in it.
Hell, in the very brief thank-yous, the second group of people the group thanks (right after their managers) is the entire cast and crew of...do I even have to mention which movie? None of the big-box store circulars even mentioned the album, and it wasn't on sale when I got it at K-Mart. I also don't think it's a very good omen that the only copy in stock (I sincerely doubt it was because McFly are so popular in Miami that they sold out already, but my local K-Mart is especially crappy in stocking music) had a broken case, which I didn't notice til I took it home. I'd like to see them make it, but I think their label are making some blunders. If they have a shot, they need to come here, slog it out, and do shitloads of radio gigs to get played.
Just My Luck - The one new track. Who knows if it was written specifically for the movie, although I wouldn't be shocked if it was. It's an upbeat number and the lyrics fit. Five Colours In Her Hair (U.S. Version) - I'm somewhat surprised they kept the British pronunciation in the title. This is a completely new recording, which they made sound more pop-punk and emo-lite as opposed to the more jangly pop of the original. It could be sacreligious to somebody who is used to the original, but I quite like it. Then again, i'm into those kind of bands.
Room on the 3rd Floor - Good song that was released as a single in the UK and reached #5. It's a ballad that's sweet but not really corny. It's sort of acoustic in style. For some reason, this isn't even on the American album!
Also, this is unrelated, but vote for Elliott on American Idol tonight if you can. 1-866-IDOLS-03, 1-866-IDOLS-07, of if you've got product placed Cingular cell phones, text "vote" to 5703. Hilarilously, when you call the numbers, the underdog himself thanks you for voting for him. If you don't live in the U.S., completely disregard this part :)
I'm an idiot. I've been completely neglecting this blog lately. I've been doing a bunch of personal stuff, but this isn't the blog for that. Except that I will mention that I got straight A's this semester, which says that pop music is great for studying, even more than classical. :P Also, I managed to name check Girls Aloud in an environmental studies project (guess which song!), so it was good all around.
Another thing i've been doing is discovering defunct singers and groups that I didn't really pay attention to the first time around. From 2003 to 2004, I was kind of slacking on my British pop, so now i'm catching up, and i'll post about it in the next few posts.
Today's installment is about V. Comprised of Aaron Buckingham, Antony Brant, Kevin McDaid, Leon Pisani, and Mark Harle and formed in 2002 while making the UK pop scene in 2004, they were an all-singing, all-dancing boy band that appeared at a time when the UK music scene was less ready for a pure boy band with little pretentions of credibility. Ironically, they were managed and signed by the same people as Busted and McFly (the latter of whom are releasing their debut U.S. album next Tuesday, which is 99% sure to flop as i've seen absolutely no promotion outside of that Lindsay Lohan movie) and pimped out as the opening act on all their respective tours to the point where an interview by Danny of McFly was a selling point for one format of their first single, when it was their fusion of guitars with the boy band style of harmonies and pop hooks that helped do them in.
At first, they seemed to have potential to be successful. Debut single "Blood, Sweat, and Tears" (not a tribute to '60s/'70s classic rock band) charted at #6, and the double A-side followup featuring Xenomania track "Hip To Hip" and Jackson 5 cover "Can You Feel It" (the song Madonna stole the bassline for "Sorry" from) did one better, at #5. (The "Can You Feel It" video is hilarious and on YouTube, with one as a hot-ass milkman.) However, the ballad that was supposed to take them to new heights, "You Stood Up", missed the top 10 despite TV promotional appearances featuring the boys singing underneath rain effects, the album of the same name bombed, and that was it for them. It's mostly unknown what has happened to most of the members, except that Kevin is dating Mark from Westlife, Mark is starting some sort of band, and Aaron is apparently doing some pantomime shows in England.
I'm kind of sad that I didn't discover them while they were around. From what I gather, all the members seemed to have lively and distinct personalities, unlike most boy bands these days (check out Aaron's PopJustice column). They could sing, were attractive, and had some great songs. Just goes to show you that it doesn't always work, even with the coattails of successful bands to ride on top of that. Now for the songs!!
The three Xenomania tracks on the album, and they all kick ass. While they're not quite masterpieces on the level of "Love Machine" or "Hole in the Head", among others, I think they're certainly worthy. "Fools" especially is brilliant, and was co-written by all the members of the group. I'd love to see them write more songs for male acts, although I see several reasons why it doesn't happen more often. It seems as if female pop artists can get away with being slightly more quirky and still be commercially viable, while if some guys try it, it might not have the same effect. Judging from this unofficial site of their productions, V is the only all-male act they have written original material for.
Walk On - A track by StarGate, who also did the original version of "Blood, Sweat and Tears" and several other songs on the album, as well as many other artists. This is a cool song that's basically about how girls shouldn't tease and lead a guy on if they've already got a man. Chills in the Evening (featuring Tom and Danny) - This features one half of McFly, and sounds like one of their songs, as it was written by Tom Fletcher (same one that sings on the track) and James Bourne, formerly of Busted and now of Son of Dork. it's surprisingly haunting.
Hip to Hip (Tony Lamezma Pop Mix) - I spent a shitload of money importing a CD promo with these two dance remixes, which were never commercially released. This one is perfectly described by the name; it's a giddy, pop-dance tour de force. Hip To Hip (Gravitas Saturday Night Mix) - This remix is more clubby, and removes the comedy rap portion, if you're not a fan of white dudes attempting to spit rhymes.
Just For You - This is a hidden track on the album, only accessible by rewinding from the first track backwards. This makes it absolutely impossible to listen to via computer. However, after endless searching, I managed to find some tricks that let me burn a copy of the album and access the song, which I then had to snip from the first song off the album proper AND silence. It's a cute, sweet acoustic ballad. Sample lyrics: "i'm gonna take her to the flicks/gonna buy her some Pick 'n' Mix". A funny part occurs near the end when one of the members' cellphone rings, and he tells the caller that he's recording a hidden track for the album, which is the best in-joke reference to making a pop album since Miss Lohan herself said that talking between songs is rad. Blood, Sweat and Tears (Almighty Mix) - Cheesy yet great remix production from the good folks at Almighty (who are another "what happened to" story - when was the last time they were commissioned for remixes by an outside act, as opposed to doing covers of existing hits of variable quality?). This was used as instore music in Abercrombie and Fitch sometime in 2004, which is one of the many musical reasons I would love to work there if they didn't pay minimum wage and I wasn't too fat to get hired by them.
If That's The Way It Goes - B-side to their first single. It's nice, but I see why it didn't make the album (however, why a mysterious unknown song that was supposedly their obscurity-saving equavilent of Atomic Kitten's "Whole Again" wasn't, I don't know). I'd still say to check it out.
Boyband Medley (Live) - They knew their history of the groups that came before them. This acoustic medley features "Pray" by Take That, "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" by the Backstreet Boys, "Keep On Movin'" by Five, and closes with "Relight My Fire", also by Take That. There are some nice harmonies on this one. Hip To Hip (Acoustic Version) - Also on the acoustic tip, it works surprisingly well.
Indestructible - This was the b-side to the single "You Stood Up". Unfortunately, the title did not reflect the group itself, that split soon after. They made an attempt at doing a "goodbye gig" in mid 2005, but it never materialized. To keep the dream alive, you can always play this interactive game that is Dance Dance Revolution for the computer, where you use your keyboard's arrows to hit the right marks, set to V songs. One day I might do a feature on promotional Flash pop games. Given that their band name is impossible to Google (possibly not the smartest move), I would be remiss not to link their official website, which should remain online for a few more months. After that, it's all about archive.org.