Category Archives: Pop

Dionne Warwick, always a heartbreaker

My first impression of Dionne Warwick was from listening to her pleasant, calming vocals during car rides with my mother 30 years ago. In the ’80s, her music was experiencing a mini revival, gaining new fans from her time hosting “Solid Gold” and riding on 70s hits like “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” and the 1982 disco-jazzy “Heartbreaker.”

My second impression was that she was from San Jose — she must be, because she says so in the song, right? Apparently a lot of people have thought that, which is what she told me during our interview recently. But the Princess of Pop was totally cool with it and doesn’t fault people for assuming she’s from the West Coast. But she grew up in New Jersey – slightly different locale. One of my favorite lines from the song is when she airily suggests dropping $100 to help buy a car. Sounds like a deal to me!

At the time though, I didn’t realize she was part of one of the most successful collaborations in popular music history. The three of them — Warwick and songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David — struck gold with memorable songs like “Say A Little Prayer,” “Walk On By,” and “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.”

It’s a massive catalog. If you’ve never taken the time to listen to her hits from the 60s, it’s worth it. Part of it is the Bacharach/David easygoing style of orchestral melodies and brass that makes them memorable, part of it is how Warwick was able to melt so gracefully into the lyrics. “Walk On By” is one of my most favorite songs ever; the piano line is so comforting, like a rainy Sunday.

Some of the songs haven’t aged as well — “Wives and Lovers” has a fantastic, breezy melody. The song is a good example of that ’60s James Bond-style grand sound, but the lines about keeping pretty so your husband doesn’t leave are pretty stale now.

I’ll finally get the chance to see her live tonight in Derry, NH. Hearing songs in person when you’ve had the original stuck in your brain for years is a weird experience. She’s probably not going to sound like she did then, but that’s what will make her performance unique.


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Filed under '60s, '70s, Disco, Gospel, New Music, Pop, R&B, Soul

On ‘Anti,’ Rihanna finally slows down and finds her center

Listening to Rihanna’s new album, Anti, it’s obvious there’s no mega-hit — there’s no eletcro-pop gem like “Diamonds,” no “Umbrella”-like anthem.

After her frantic run of albums over several years, Rihanna, paused, tweaked and molded, ripped down and rebuilt Anti. Anti is not a particularly happy or uplifting album either. Rihanna’s emotions shift constantly, from loneliness to lust, vulnerability to indecision.

But there’s still plenty about Anti to love. The depth and darkness she’s uncovered here is the farthest she’s come personally in her music, and it makes for a compelling and captivating album.

Her decision to drop the singles “BBHMM,” “American Oxygen” and “FourFiveSeconds” from Anti was the right one — and whether Anti yields an R&B hit doesn’t seem to concern her right now.

She begins by reclaiming her Barbadian accent on “Consideration,” forgoing her earlier Americanized vocals. “I got to do things my own way darling / “Will you ever let me?” she chants defiantly.

The interlude “James Joint” boils down her love life to smoking weed, making out and not giving a damn about anything else. Although it’s the briefest song, the swirl of soft electro-pop notes is the sexiest on the entire album. Another slow jam, “Kiss It Better,” features an‘80s-era guitar hook that could just as easily be a Prince write-off.

She can play the good girl just as easily as the bad, and it’s her prerogative which character she chooses to embody. She doesn’t need to waste time with emotional baggage on “Needed Me” (“But baby, don’t get it twisted/You was just another n—- on the hit list/Trying to fix your issues with a bad b*tch.”)  Later on the album she plays the vulnerable woman who’s uncertain how to feel when she finds herself in the pangs of new love on the docile acoustic pop of “Never Ending.”

But her best work comes toward the end.

She lets loose on the doo-wop tune “Higher,” accentuating its distorted, wobbly strings, and on its sister tune — the slow, retro 1-2-3 beat of “Love on the Brain” – she’s never been more daring. “I’m tired of being played like a violin,” she says. When her voice is stripped of electronic assets and allowed to become grainy and raw, it shines.

By the time Rihanna closes Anti with a tender piano ballad, it’s clear she’s evolved; you get the sense that she’s come to terms with or is at peace with whatever demons she was fighting. Those annual album drops may now be a thing of the past.

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Filed under Doo Wop, Electro-pop, Pop, Review, Uncategorized

What David Bowie means to me

I wrote these few notes on David Bowie at 2:30 a.m., after I found out the news that the longtime rock legend had died.
There’s nothing I can really say that isn’t going to be said or felt by every Bowie fan, but I just wanted to offer some thoughts about his impact on the world of music.

David Bowie color

Bowie was one of the first things I wrote about for this blog. His name or influence would pop up every now and then in stories, whenever art, music, culture and life collided or intersected. I wrote about his exhibit at London’s V & A in 2013 — where his unique fashions and music memorabilia paid a visit — and that time he invited everyone to check out his book list. When he tweeted to the astronaut Chris Hadfield after Hadfield performed “Space Oddity” in space, confirmed he knows how to stay relevant in every decade he’s lived through. David Bowie’s been everywhere, but always on his own terms.

The body of work he’s left us is immeasurable.
By not bowing to industry pressure and not compromising his sound or views, he’s created his own style of music, his own “coolness,” that no other artist has ever been able to duplicate.

I was lucky enough to see David Bowie at Lollapalooza in the early ’90s, performing with Nine Inch Nails. From what I recall, Bowie’s performance at Mansfield in Boston was a surprise — the crowd wasn’t expecting him. I admit I didn’t know a lot about Bowie at the time — I was too sheltered in my tiny worldview of music and didn’t understand his huge impact early on.

David Bowie

But that night, seeing him from a hundred rows back, solitary, standing still, the Thin White Duke in a long black coat, you knew with one look that he was in a class by himself, that you were in the presence of rock royalty. He commanded the crowd. It’s one of those concert memories that stays with you.

Whether it was the Jareth the Goblin King, Aladdin Sane or Ziggy Stardust, or whether you have strong feelings about the quality of “Modern Love,” Bowie owned whatever persona he embodied at that time. He stood by every decision he made, including his choice to have Blackstar be his farewell.


David Bowie arrives at the 11th annual Webby Awards at Chipriani Wall Street on June 5, 2007, in New York City.

So if you haven’t heard his music before or don’t know much about him, there’s a really good chance you’ll find a song in his catalog that you can relate to or reminisce about.

David-Bowie-vert Wartermark

That’s what made him great — his ability to reach across the aisle toward any genre he felt an attraction to. No one can really fill that void, but he’s left behind an amazing collection of music that we can turn to, to stay in touch with the weird in all of us.

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Filed under Art, Art rock, Artpop, Electro-pop, Experimental, Glam Rock, Photography, Pop, Rock, Space rock, Uncategorized

For no good reason I listed the movies in the Adele “Hello” supercut

If you were searching for a new way to memorize some of the lyrics to Adele’s “Hello,” “Hello By the Movie” is here.
Watch/listen to this supercut of “Hello” in which actors in several famous movies voice the words to Adele’s hit, which by now has received the covers treatment more times than is really necessary.
And the movies in the supercut, created by by Matthijs Vlot, run the gamut from serious to hilarious – Monty Python and Austin Powers are here, alongside the Terminator and Scarface. They didn’t leave in Lee Evans’ hilarious balancing act in “There’s Something About Mary” just by accident.

The movies they chose are varied enough and from a wide cross-section of films that you should be able to find your favorite somewhere along the way.

Hear the possessive way Arnold Schwarzenegger says “everything” or the heavy way Bruce Lee says “outside” and you’ll be hooked. The supercut is just the right mix of Adele’s classic romantic lines and unforgettable movies. Think of it as the greatest hits a la “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”

For some reason I decided to list each movie and/or which actor spoke a little piece of Adele’s mind, already knowing it was futile because I just don’t know all the movies. Anyway, it was fun doing the back-end research. If you can fill in some of these blanks, please do.

Here’s the the majority of movies/stars you’ll get a glimpse of in the supercut. Dashes indicate movies/actors I don’t know. I’m sorry I didn’t catch them all — forgive me.

Sasha Baron Cohen as Ali G
Edward Norton – Primal Fear?
Demi Moore in a Few Good Men
Rick Moranis
Zach Galligan in Gremlins
Dr. Zhivago?
Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate
Sean Connery in James Bond
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze in Batman
Alec Guinness in Star Wars
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat
William H. Macy in Fargo
Harrison Ford in Return of the Jedi
Sylvester Stallone in (some iteration of) Rocky
Mark Hamill and R2D2 in Star Wars
Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Arnold Schwarzenegger (again) in ….. something
Michael Palin (King of Swamp Castle) in Monty Python and the Holy Grail


Jock in Lady and the Tramp
Gonzo in early Sesame Street movie
Lumiere and Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast
—- (guy with one red eye?)
Big Bird in another Sesame Street movie
Will Ferrell in Anchorman
Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds
Pumbaa in The Lion King
Jack Black in School of Rock
Roy Scheider in Jaws
Leonardo DiCaprio
James Garner


Al Pacino in Scarface
Clint Eastwood
C-3PO in Return of the Jedi
Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty
Dana Carvey in Wayne’s World
Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop
Lee Evans in There’s Something About Mary
Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in Batman
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in Men In Black
Mike Myers in Austin Powers
Richard Gere in Pretty Woman
Mark Hamill in Return of the Jedi
Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate
E.T. in E.T.
Sasha Baron Cohen in Borat
Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Bruce Lee
Roger Moore in James Bond
Mark Wahlberg in Boogie Nights
Mike Myers in Austin Powers
Arnold Schwarzenegger (really? again??)
Christopher Reeve
Bill Murray
Danny DeVito in Twins
Maggie Smith in Harry Potter
Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire
Will Smith in Ali
Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man
Edward Furlong in The Terminator
Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter
Holly Hunter (Elastigirl) in The Incredibles
Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in Coming To America
…. and a very sad Bart Simpson closes it out.

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Filed under Adele, Classic movies, Pop, R&B, Uncategorized, VIdeos

Lindstrom remixes Frida’s ’80s hit “I Know There’s Something Going On”

Scandinavian artist Hans-Peter Lindstrom has released an 8-minute remix of Frida’s “I Know There’s Something Going On.” His techno/spacerock remix and dub version adds to the long line of covers and nods to the song since its release in the early ’80s.

The song has been covered by Finnish, Swedish and Italian bands — Foo Fighters borrowed the song’s drum line for their 2007 song “Erase/Replace,” according to the Foo’s Taylor Hawkins in this video. (You only have to skip ahead to the 2-minute mark to hear the reference.)

Some background:

In 1982, Abba singer Frida (Anni-Frid Lyngstad), while the band was on a break, struck out on her own with a solo album, “Something’s Going On.” The lead single, “I Know There’s Something Going On” ended up being a huge hit in the early ’80s, and has gone on to sell 3 millions copies to date. It’s actually got a killer guitar riff and a sexy sway to the song.

Frida’s voice is a pure standout, and she’s pretty much over whatever love she had with this guy — she’s ready to tell him the gig’s up. The chorus is incredibly catchy and never fails to stick in my head for hours, although it’s been several years since I heard this gem.

frida something going on

“If you want to leave, then why don’t you say it — your love is gone anyway,” she says matter-of-factly.

No real surprise the drum line is so popular — “Something’s Going On” was produced by Phil Collins, who also provides his signature shuffling/clapping drum sound. Some might know it as the “Miami Vice” sound.

Lindstrom’s covering Frida to celebrate her 70th birthday this year. The remix and a dub version will be released Oct. 23 along with a digital release by Polar Music. That release will be limited to 2,000 copies and will include a remastered CD of “Something Going On,” a documentary DVD, videos, a 7-inch single and a book of liner notes written by Frida.

You must also check out the incredibly dated video for “I Know Something’s Going On.”

Frida video

Frida’s dancing pretty tamely in what looks like a Grand Ole Opry dress with a backdrop of Star Wars-styled blue neon light strips. Music videos had to start somewhere; thank God they started in the ’80s.

Regardless, the song and remix are just enjoyable.

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Filed under Dub, Pop, Remix, Techno, VIdeos

Tinashe wants to give you whiplash with “Cold Sweat”

Tinashe’s new video for “Cold Sweat” is as mind-numbing as it is sultry R&B. It features the singer contorting her body in fits and starts against a black background, and generally appearing possessed, but in a good way.

Via www.rap-up, Tinashe may be participating in the Janet Jackson dance tribute at the BET Awards. She’ll be on tour with Nicki Minaj starting in Dallas on July 17.

The “Cold Sweat” video was directed by Stephen Garnett. The song is off her debut, “Aquarius.”

If you haven’t yet, make sure to download Tinashe’s excellent free seven-song mixtape, which she recorded in her bedroom during her Christmas vacation last year.

Tinashe – Amethyst

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Filed under Free download, Hip-Hop, New Music, Pop, VIdeos

Madonna anoints Drake with her kiss; Drake treats it like poison

Drake Madonna big kiss

Gonna dress you up in my love, whether you like it or not.

At the Coachella Music Festival this weekend, Madonna imparted a hefty kiss upon Drake while onstage. His abject disgust after the holy event has caused a stir while it also appeared to turn Drake’s stomach.

madonna- drake react1

After Madonna plants a big wet one on Drake, then continues the song without breaking a sweat, Drake immediately lunges forward, acting like he just swallowed acid. It did appear as if Madonna was cutting off Drake’s air supply, but suffering from a lack of oxygen is no reason to not enjoy being in the moment with the One Who Gave Us Like A Virgin.

Madonna is clearly a fan of Drake. She mentioned his music during a video from Sydney Morning Herald about what she listens to during her exercise routine. Besides Diplo and Disclosure, she admits she rocks out to the rapper while sculpting.

“I love Drake’s new Mixtape,” she says, so it would appear that Madonna does have some ulterior motive to show her respect: She likes his music. DRAKE EVEN NAMED A SONG AFTER HER ON HIS MIXTAPE. Doesn’t seem to be much excuse for him.

The guy should at least act like he enjoyed the surprise kiss while he’s performing with her. People paid good money to see this.

Madonna drake react2

Other public smooches by the Queen of Pop have been well received, and understandably, still hot. Drake, take note:



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Filed under Coachella 2015, Drake, Hip-Hop, Madonna, Pop

Dust off your skinny tie: Duran Duran has new album; Janelle Monae features on 1st single

If you grew up in the 80s, you watched MTV. If you watched MTV, you knew about Duran Duran.

The 80s boy group rose to prominence on the (at least at one time) all-music-vids-all-the-time TV station your parents didn’t want you to watch. Your girlfriends could all pick their fave hot guy (Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor or Roger Taylor) and plaster him all over their Tiger Beat bedroom wall. (Trust me, they were unstoppably hot once).


“Her name is Rio, hear them shout across the land”

Duran Duran is hoping to reignite a bit of that 80s magic with a new album and recording deal. Duran Duran announced March 27 that it signed with Warner Brothers, as well as released details on their upcoming album, their 14th, due in September.

The British heartthrobs, which seemed tailor-made for the sheer excess bred by the Me Generation, exploded on MTV with their sleek, sometimes androgynous look. Their rock/pop blend of racy music was pretty catchy too. Songs like “Rio,” “The Reflex,” “The Wild Boys,” “Girls On Film,” and “Save A Prayer,” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” were all mega hits in Reagan’s day. Hell, one of their albums was even called “Arena.”

Duran Duran Rio

Duran Duran pioneered the over-saturated, sexy music video in the early 80s.

Bassist John Taylor added his thoughts to the band’s new deal. “We are also excited that this deal means we will be reunited with our catalogue after years apart – and in that sense it really feels a little like coming home,” said Taylor.

The first single from the album, “Pressure Off,” will feature singer/songwriter Janelle Monae. Former Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante and Kiesza also feature on the album.

Producers Nile Rodgers, Mark Ronson and Mr Hudson have all put their funk-rock stamp on Duran Duran’s latest album. Ronson (“Uptown Funk”) produced Duran Duran’s album “All You Need Is Now” in 2010.

The group’s not one to mess with a good thing by sticking with Rodgers, who produced “The Wild Boys” in 1984, after remixing their number 1 hit “The Reflex” (remember that video? — when the flood comes out of the giant screen at the concert?), as well as produced the group’s album “Notorious.”

Duran Duran's video for "The Reflex" featured magic water.

Duran Duran’s video for “The Reflex” featured magic water.

More details to come. Check out what all the buzz was about by watching the video for “Rio” “Girls On Film,” and “Save A Prayer.” If you have no idea who they are, here’s a Duran Duran primer.

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Filed under New Romantic, Pop, Rock

Young Fathers release new song “Shame”

Young Fathers_ColorYoung Fathers have released another song off their upcoming album “White Men Are Black Men Too,” and it’s called “Shame.” You can also listen to “Shame” on NPR Music’s All Things Considered, or, if you prefer, watch Young Fathers’ live set from Johannesburg, South Africa, via OkayAfrica.

Young Fathers prefer not to be known as hip-hop, despite sounding mysteriously like that, but would rather be placed in more conventional genres such as rock and pop. Interpret that what you will.

“White Men Are Black Men Too” is out April 7 on Big Dada.

North American Tour Kicks Off April 9 in Boston

Apr 09 Boston, MA – Great Scott

Apr 10 Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall Of Williamsburg

Apr 11 Philadelphia, PA – Boot & Saddle

Apr 12 Washington, DC – Rock N Roll Hotel

Apr 14 Raleigh, NC – Kings

Apr 15 Atlanta, GA – Masquerade (Hell Stage)

Apr 16 New Orleans, LA – Republic

Apr 17 Houston, TX – Fitzgeralds

Apr 18 Dallas, TX – Trees

Apr 19 Austin, TX – Parish

Apr 21 Phoenix, AZ – Valley Bar

Apr 22 San Diego, CA – Casbah

Apr 24 Los Angeles, CA – The Echo

Apr 25 San Francisco, CA – The Independent

Apr 29 Portland, OR – Holocene

Apr 30 Vancouver, BC – Fortune Sound Club

May 01 Victoria, BC – Distrikt

May 02 Seattle, WA – Neumos

May 05 Boise, ID – Neurolux

May 06 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge

May 07 Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge

May 08 Lincoln, NE – Vega

May 09 Minneapolis, MN – 7th St Entry

May 10 Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall

May 13 St. Louis, MO – Firebird

May 14 Nashville, TN – Exit In

May 16 Gulf Shores, AL – Hangout Fest

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Filed under Hip-Hop, Pop, Rock

Jenny Hval releases thunderous debut single off “Apocalypse, girl”

Jenny Hval releases "That Battle Is Over," off "Apocalypse, girl" out June 9 on Sacred Bones

Jenny Hval releases “That Battle Is Over,” off “Apocalypse, girl” out June 9 on Sacred Bones

Norwegian musician Jenny Hval has released the debut single from her upcoming album, “Apocalypse, girl,” called “That Battle Is Over,” and it’s clear her personal wars have just begun.

“That Battle Is Over” nurtures a slow bluesy waltz that releases some powerful lyrics. “We’re at the edge of history……feminism’s over… and socialism’s over ..yeah say I can consume what I want now” she sings, and the song burns out in a haze.

“Apocalypse, girl,” Hval’s third album, is being called a collection of “transgressive pop music,” but hearing the first single only whets our appetite for her free-thinking style and bold, fiery words.

“Apocalypse, girl” will be released June 9 on Sacred Bones. She’s on tour supporting St. Vincent and Perfume Genius.

Listen to the song on Youtube, and visit for more info.

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Filed under Artpop, New Music, Pop