Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stephanie Mills - The Medicine Song

You gotta take it, if ya wanna shake it!

Now this is a bit random - even by my standards - but it's been a while since my last flashback post and, let's face it, you really need this song in your life! As most of you are probably aware, I'm completely obsessed with '80s R&B and dance music. It was just... better. The popular divas (excluding Janet) could actually sing and they were more interested in flaunting their sequined leotards, bad special-effects and Jheri curls in videos than shafting meth in a drug den or whatever Rihanna's doing in "We Found Love". One of my favourite ladies from that golden era is Stephanie Mills. She came to fame on Broadway playing Dorothy in the original production of The Wiz and went on to become a disco icon in the late '70s with her seminal hit "Never Knew Love Like This Before".

While that tune remains her highest entry on the Billboard Hot 100, the ravishing diva was still selling Gold and Platinum albums well into the late '80s. I haven't heard them all yet but I'm absolutely in love with 1984's I've Got The Cure. It's basically the campest album La Toya never recorded and features the epic "Medicine Song". Words can't describe my love for this US #1 dance hit. Everything about it from David 'Hawk' Wolinski's quirky production to Stephanie's outrageous vocal delivery is perfection. And then there's the fabulous cover art and video clip. You haven't lived until you've seen the amazing magical leotards at the 1:15 minute mark. Whoever dreamed up the scenario is probably still lying somewhere in a cocaine-induced coma. Watch in awe as Stephanie Mills shows Nicki Minaj how to do crazy right.

Rebecca Ferguson's Sydney Showcase

I really didn't know what to make of Rebecca Ferguson's debut album when it was released late last year. There was no denying the magnificence of her husky voice but I thought the 2010 X Factor runner-up didn't quite have the material to do her vocal prowess justice. But Heaven has grown on me a lot since then and, after seeing the 25-year-old belt out half the album at the Beresford last night, the penny finally dropped. Rebecca is a superstar. I still think she could do with better material but this girl has something in spades that Leona Lewis and the other pretenders lack. Soul.

After a passionate introduction from Sony head-honcho Denis Handlin, the seductress that corrupted a fifth of One Direction took the stage with her impressive four-piece band. "Glitter & Gold", one of the stand-out tracks on her album, sounded even better live. Rebecca's voice oozed emotion as she made her way through the bittersweet lyrics. This has to be a future single! Next up was "Too Good To Lose" (above), which recently stiffed at #186 on the UK charts. Bec's performance was flawless but this is probably the worst song on Heaven. What were they thinking?

After that came "Shoulder To Shoulder", which is easily my favourite cut from the album. The glamorous mother-of-two gave me chills with her smoky vocals and heartfelt lyrics. Anyone who dismisses Rebecca as another Mother's Day artist needs to download this anthem and take a seat. "Nothing's Real But Love" is just as lovely live as it is on record. I'm so happy to see the song leaping up Australian iTunes. The down-to-earth diva - her casual banter between numbers was adorable - then closed the showcase with "Teach Me How To Be Loved", which she described as the most personal track on Heaven. It's a little gem and showcases Rebecca's potential as a songwriter. I love the sentiment and she injects it with so much heartache. Don't be put off by the X Factor tag. This woman is the real deal.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sneaky Sound System Really Want To See You Again!

I've been meaning to post this for ages but I guess it's better late than never. Sneaky Sound System is back with a suitably arty video for third cut from their latest album. It took a while but the band's "Really Want To See You Again" visual was worth the wait. The use of shape and colour is brilliant and those dancers are everything. I think Miss Connie built a time machine and flew back to 1992 to rescue them from an MC Hammer video. So epic! The song itself is an interesting choice. There's no denying its crisp electro-pop pedigree but I'm convinced "I'm Not Leaving" is the album's biggest hit-in-waiting. Hopefully, they have that pegged for single number four. If you love Sneaky Sound System as much as I do, make sure you catch one of their upcoming shows over Easter. Dates are listed below:

Thursday 5 April – Family, Brisbane
Saturday 7 April – The Hi-Fi, Sydney
Sun 8 April – The Palace, Melbourne
Sat 14 April – The Villa, Perth

And here's their glorious "Really Want To See You Again" film clip. Connie goes harder than all you faves and you know it!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Are Toni & Trina Braxton The New Janet & La Toya?

I have a thing for musical dynasties. There's just something fascinating about seeing family relationships under the microscope of the fame spotlight. Who will ever forget Jermaine's digs at brother Michael in "Word To The Badd" or when Dannii went under the knife to look more like Kylie? As far as celebrity siblings go, the Braxtons have done a fairly good job of keeping it together. That is if you ignore the constant cat-fights and wig-snatching antics on their amazing reality show. But with all of the ladies dreaming of solo stardom, it's only a matter of time before weaves start flying. The first sisters to capitalise on the success of Braxton Family Values are Trina and her perennially cash-strapped superstar-sister Toni.

To be honest, I didn't know what to expect from Trina. She's basically the Tito of the Braxton clan. She was a part of the family's flop girlband in the early '90s but she never went solo like Tamar or had any hits like big sister Toni. It's surprising then that her high-brow jam "Party Or Go Home" is an utter delight. There's nothing particularly original about it - think RedOne on a budget - but it's catchy and showcases her stunning, autotuned vocals. I love the inane lyrics and think it would probably be a top 20 hit for the likes of Britney or Jennnifer Lopez. Listen to Trina's guilty pleasure above and download it from iTunes now. A girl's gotta eat!

That takes us to Toni. It's no secret that I stan hard for this bankrupt bitch. "Pulse" was one of my favourite albums of 2010 and I keep hoping she regains the Midas touch that made her one of the biggest stars of the '90s. The deep-voiced beauty was always going to be the biggest benefactor of Braxton Family Values and she is looking to make the publicity count by going down the predictable dance route. There's some dispute as to whether "I Heart You" is the lead single from her 8th studio album or just a buzz single - it was briefly released as a free download but there is a video the way - but I'm not really bothered about the song's commercial performance. I'm just glad it's a great track that freshens up the dated-but-still-amazing R&B sound of "Pulse" without detracting from Toni's glorious, honey-coated pipes. My favourite bit is when the beat drops and she declares "I think I'm gonna DAAAANCE!"

On a side note, the diva's new album is called Heartstrings & Synagogue Vibes and it documents her new-found believe in abstaining from sex outside marriage. I couldn't make this shit up! Long live the fabulous Braxton sisters. Now where is Tamar's hot jam?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pop Panel 2012 - Volume 1

Due to popular demand Pop Panel is back for another season of hot songs, future hits and bottom of the barrel trash! There will be some changes this time around - fortnightly or monthly updates instead of weekly editions and perhaps fewer judges - but I'm still working all that out. I just thought I'd jump in the deep end and see how it goes. Fingers crossed. This week's winner was a bit predictable but well-deserved. I'm pressed about some of the votes and comments but I'll get over it! Ok, let's get started. Tonight's Panel consists of the following regulars:

Robbie (US) writer of Chart Rigger
Mike (Aus) author of this classy blog
Jacques (Aus) writer of The Prophet

We are also joined by the following judges:

Stephen (US) writer of The Middle Eight


Kennedy Carter (UK) full-time porn star and part-time pop blogger. The ginger Brit is not only adorable but also smart as a whip and completely addicted to pop. Some guys really are the complete package! Before getting down to business he kindly answered some music-related questions:

What kind of music are you into?
Lots of electronic stuff, lots of techno, and lots of pop.

How did you get into Scandipop?
I think on your recommendation!

Where do you find new tracks?
Pop Justice, Resident Advisor, Scandipop, Idolator, Soundcloud and Twitter.

Favourite song and album?
Right now my favorite song is "Radio" by Lana Del Rey, and my favorite album is Silver Moon by Donkeyboy.

What is the best soundtrack for shagging?
Depends on the type of shagging!

The results are ranked from lowest to highest.

Madonna - Girl Gone Wild (Video)

87-year-old pop icon joins forces with Ukrainian dance outfit Kazaky for the second video from her 103rd studio album MDNA.

Jacques: The music video for this song has had a very mixed reaction, with a lot of people criticizing Madge for copping out by writhing around with a bunch of beefy fags crawling all over her like she's done a million times before. Normally I'd agree, but I think this was a fabulous homage to her classics like "Erotica" and "Justify My Love", while also being a huge slap to GaGa for ripping off "Express Yourself". This would be the ultimate triumph if the song itself wasn't such pure shit. 2.5/5
Kennedy: I loathe this record. Just like with "4 Minutes", it feels like Madonna, instead of pioneering new sounds as she once did, is chasing a sound that has been the zeitgeist for a long time, that vacuous, Euro-influenced, autotuned dance pop that finds it impossible to produce lyrical content that relates to anything else than being in a club. Madonna has not showed much aptitude for a nuanced lyric in many years and this is no exception, and the sound is as generic as it gets, but the whole mess is saved by a glorious video that gleefully rehashes many of the imagery that made her such a controversial, exciting artist back in her heyday, reminding us that no matter how outré we find our current popstars, Madonna was there doing it all while they were still in diapers. 1/5
Mike: Why does this geriatric cunt even bother? 0/5
Robbie: I'm going to be tough on this broad for moment and say this would be a good song for anyone else. But it's Madonna. There is some pretty fucking amazing material on MDNA, but you'd never know it from the two lead singles. At any rate, yeah, it's still a good jam overall, and her tits look classy in the trashola video. 3.5/5
Stephen: Okay, the song is – join the chorus – reductive. But sorry, she is slaying all your faves in that video. She looks beyond amazing. Most divas can’t manage that at 25, much less 52. Song 2/5, video 5/5.
Total: 9/25

Gossling - Wild Love (Video)

Australian singer-songwriter currently has a top ten hit as the featured vocalist on 360's "Boys Like You". This is her grab for solo glory.

Jacques: Quirky folk-pop has to be my least favorite genre of music and should only be listened to by lame lesbians and trendy coffee shop owners, but I love the production here and the melody. The hook is also impossibly catchy. 3.5/5
Kennedy: One of the most lovely voices I have heard recently, a smoky mix of Duffy and Lykke Li but nicer than both. A perfect summer song for a sunny day. 3/5
Mike: Something about this moody little gem reminds me of Paula Cole's "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone". For that reason alone, it's easily the best song in this week's line-up.
Robbie: I was hoping this was Ryan Gosling's attempt at a music career. Nope, just another helium-voiced ho who needs kicked in the baby box. 0/5
Stephen: Gossling or gosling or geesling? She sounds like a singing duck! 0/5
Total: 11.5/25

Marina & The Diamonds - Primadonna (Video)

The latest taste from her soon-to-be-released sophomore album "Electra Heart".

Jacques: I'm a huge Marina fan and I like this song, but she's such a humorless cunt who needs to get her head out of her ass. Can you believe that she had the nerve to send me an abusive DM on Twitter just because I innocently stated that she'd suck Ron Fair off in the back of McDonalds just to get a hit? The nerve! Well Marina, you know what they say: Payback's a bitch, and so am I! Mwahahaha. 0/5
Kennedy: I love Marina. I love the wit in her lyrics, I love the stridency of her voice, and the way her British accent creeps into her vocals. I was obsessed with Radioactive and this follows a similar vibe, a rare example of the Euro-pop sound mentioned above that is done with intelligence, humor, and class. 5/5
Mike: DEAD at The Prophet's scandalous revelations! As for this song... well, it's nice. But like "Radioactive" and "Homewrecker", it's missing the raw emotional core that made songs like "I Am Not A Robot" and "Oh No!" modern pop classics. I really hope there's better stuff on the album or Marina will end up doing dinner theatre on the same bill as Lolene and Sky Ferreira. 3/5
Robbie: Dr. Luke barfs out another Katy Perry reject (see: Jessie J, "Domino") and passes it along to another eager starlet hoping to have a global hit. Like with Madonna, there are way better songs than this on Marina's upcoming album. "Primadonna" isn't awful. It's just throwaway. 2.5/5
Stephen: Why does this song bore me so much? Doe she really think this is her worldwide pop breakthrough? I wish Marina would embrace her sideways cool and stop trying to be Katy Perry. Wicked video though, I’ll give her that. 3/5
Total: 13.5/25

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Candy Candy (Video)

They do things differently in Japan.

Jacques: Fucking iconic. Yasutaka Nakata is one of the best producers in the world -- his stuff with Perfume and Capsule is nothing less than spectacular, and leaves the rest of the world's pop for dead. I love that he gets to channel a different side of himself through little Miss Harajuku-on-acid Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. With the rate Kyary's going in Japan and all the international coverage she's been getting, she's going to be a certified cult-pop icon in a few years time. Who the fuck needs RedOne and Lady GaGa when you've got Nakata and Caroline Charonplop Kyary Pamyu Pamyu? 5/5
Kennedy: I had to stop once the video got to the breakdancing anime-faced Real Doll during the second verse, and I haven't been able to sleep since. I think it's living under my bed. 0/5
Mike: While nothing will ever top "Ponponpon", the new Madonna slays all your faves with her pretty synths and iconic lyrics like "chewing chewing chewing chewing chewing". And then there's the epic clip. Imagine the director of The Ring filming a pop video after smoking peyote and you're almost there. 5/5
Robbie: I had this nightmare once before. It's pretty much what you hear/see in the background while you're getting ass-raped for all eternity by 80-year-old Marlon Brando's bloated corpse. 2/5
Stephen: The Japanese are so mental. At a certain point (like after 3 songs?) all their pop sounds the same. I have never seen Japanese porn – is it this whackadoodlepoodle? 2/5
Total: 14/25

Rebecca & Fiona - Dance (Video)

Sweden's gloomiest girlband is back with another dark dance anthem.

Jacques: Fuck off, Scandipop. K-Pop has replaced you. Bye. 1/5
Kennedy: Spooky, ethereal gloompop. Not in any way a flamboyant record, but it captures perfectly the fractured, echoey, forlorn sound that "iamamiwhoami" did so brilliantly. 3/5
Mike: I love these girls. They are a bit pretentious and need to be prescribed industrial strength anti-depressants but their music is pitch perfect. This is so beautifully morose yet still irritatingly catchy. 4.5/5
Robbie: Nothing but love for this song (and album). It's a pity they didn't have "Dance" out last year, because it would've made a great addition to the Drive soundtrack. 4/5
Stephen: So it’s a song called "Dance" that you can only shrug your shoulders to? Zero melody but decent electronics. 2/5
Total: 14.5/25


Lana Del Rey - Blue Jeans (Below)

The new queen of elegantly-depressed pop unleashes the third single from "Born To Die".

Jacques: I'm a total Lana Lover but I like her as a person more than I like her actual music. Some of her songs are brilliant, but her album as a whole is too poppy (and not in a good way) and vastly overrated in the blogosphere. Luckily, "Blue Jeans" is one of the album's standouts, and the video is all kinds of amazing. This is easily one of the best singles of 2012, but I'm not particularly looking forward to hearing her do it live. 5/5
Kennedy: The soundtrack to the seediest, saddest strip club at the end of the world, one lone dancer on a blue-lit stage, cigarette smoke in the air. One of the highlights from a great album, and the new video is like a Helmut Newton wet dream. 5/5
Mike: I stan hard for Lana and worship this tune but what's with the video edit? I vastly prefer the original mix, so this only gets 4/5 from me.
Robbie: Not one of Lana's best, though this video(/radio?) mix is interesting. Really, I'd have gone with "National Anthem" as the third single. That song makes me want to fuck on a bed of cash. 3/5
Stephen: Why oh why is this the new single? Just give us "Radio"! This is too close to "Video Games" in sound. At least we can squeal “oh baby oooh!” with her. 3/5
Total: 20/25

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Luciana Gives Me A Bone In Bow Wow Wow Video

A couple of weeks ago I posted a preview of Luciana's latest UK single "Bow Wow Wow". The catchy collab with Bodyrox and Chipmunk has now been serviced to clubs and a link to the classy video just arrived in my inbox. It's a glossy affair with the international dance deity heating up the screen in a room full of cheap slappers, while Chipmunk plays with his remote control toys. I love Luci's hoodie - David, I need one! - and I'm feeling the new Louise Brooks hairstyle. My only complaint is the video edit of the song. I prefer the Bluestone Vs Loverush mix and think it has more commercial appeal than this dub-heavy version. Whatever. It's still an incredibly hot tune and could really explode if StreetDance 2 (it's on the soundtrack) is a box-office smash. Possibly the hardest working woman in pop, Luciana is already filming the video for next Australian single. No rest for the wicked and all that.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Radio INK - Pop Trash Q&A

Radio INK is one of the most exciting independent pop acts in Australia. The three-piece band has already churned out some killer singles ("Physical" and "Rocket" are stand-outs) but they have taken things to the next level by supporting Danish pop legends Aqua on the extremely successful Australian leg of their tour and by releasing one of the year's catchiest singles with "Who We Are Tonight". I recently spoke with lead singer Miss S about that dreamy pop anthem and their experiences recording their soon-to-be-released debut album in America. Check out what she had to say below.

You've just completed an Australia-wide tour with Aqua. How did that come about and how were you received?
Yes what a whirlwind! We had a blast with the Aqua crew - 11 shows over 15 days I think. The crowds were incredible, so much fun and energy. The first time I've ever performed to someone dressed as a teletubbie!

Were you Aqua fans before the tour or did you have to do your homework?
We were! Hello, "Dr Jones, Dr Jones wake up now". Haha. Aqua know how to put on an entertaining show. Not only did their hits bring the house down but their new album was cool too. Lene is such a strong front person. Rene (aka Dr Jones) did a DJ set in Sydney at a club after the Enmore show, he surprised us all by playing a remix of our last single "Rocket".

Speaking of great singles, your latest "Who You Are Tonight" is another great electro-pop anthem. What was it like working with producer Diamond Cut in New York?
I was in stitches of laughter working with DC. He has a great sense of humour which helps when you're doing long hours in the studio. We pretty much recorded the vocals for our new single in near one take which is always a good sign - we were feeling it and it just happened naturally. We then met up again in Studio City, Hollywood to hear the final master. Performing "Who We Are Tonight" live around Australia was a buzz, the chorus felt BIG and the crowds received it like an anthem, which was very cool.

Do you find it hard to breakthrough as an unabashed pop act in Australia?
I think its tough for any indie artist, and in the pop world you're up against the major international popstars which makes for good competition on the radio airwaves. So it's a huge sense of accomplishment with each of our singles, hearing it on the radio and getting support from around the country. Touring has connected us with so many fans and also allowed us to meet the radio presenters in each state who've been showing us love. And the love is now coming from abroad, we've now got interest from USA after performing there at the start of the year, as well as from Japan and Europe.

Who are you musical inspirations?
Where do I start?! Susannah Hoffs lead singer and guitarist from the super all-girl band The Bangles, Kylie, Dragonette, the Ting Tings, Goldfrapp, Cut Copy, Ladyhawke... Seriously, I'm unashamedly pop I love it all and take inspiration from all pop artists or acts in various ways, even right through to classic Elvis thanks to Sunday visits to my Nan. Mixed to that the boys bring different layers of their inspiration which I also embrace - from Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx or Pnau for example.

Did you guys really meet on Myspace?
Sounds scary hey but yes it's true. The boys saw me in a Sydney nightclub performing with a DJ, and then they found me on Myspace. Stalkers!!! Haha. No seriously, they invited me to write vocals for a tracks of theirs. The studio sessions were successful and so I ended up joining them full-time and we reinvented ourselves as Radio INK.

Tell us about performing at private parties in America for the likes of the Kardashians?
You pinch yourself. Looking out in to the crowd you're thinking "seriously there is the cream of the crop here, Tinseltown's A-team and we are performing for them". And everytime we met one of them it would lead to another invitation. The boys were out having a drink on Sunset and half an hour later performing a DJ set at a wild party in a millionaire's pad in the Hills. I did warn the crew that if I saw a Kardashian I'd be army-rolling out of the car to meet them. I know it's sad but I am strangely addicted to their show. Luckily, no army-rolls were needed.

"Physical" was a very classy song about just wanting no-strings attached one night stands - is this the band philosophy?
Omg. Haha. No. It's certainly not about me or my personal experience. Or the bands. I did write it almost as a self-empowering anthem for single ladies however. While it was meant to be a bit of fun, it was a tribute for the girls. It's not a man's world, they can't call all the shots so to the women - don't be scared, be whoever you want and do whatever you want.

When is the album coming and who are you working with on it?
I was juggling the Aqua tour with studio work as there's no time to waste. And the boys have been busy writing new material. We're planning on it being here for next Summer so that's exciting. Most of the songs are written by Radio INK but recently we've had the great opportunity to start co-writing. Including the pop hitmaker Shelly Peiken (Jessie J, Christina Aguilera) for our single "Who We Are Tonight".

Will the songs from the EP make the cut?
Good question! We're not 100% sure at the moment as there's so much new awesome music. It'll come down to the final editing room. So stay tuned!

"Who We Are Tonight" is available to download now from iTunes.

Kylie Conquers Luna Park - Anti Tour Review

Kylie's Anti-Tour sounds great in theory. Nobody fucks up single releases and album tracklists with more style and grace than the slightly more successful Minogue. Take 2007's criminally underrated X. Brilliant pop anthems like "Rippin' Up The Disco", "Carried Away", "Fall For You", "Cherry Bomb", "Extraordinary Day" and "Flower" were relegated to bonus track status or discarded completely. That's half of the best album never released right there! But how does a live show comprised of B-sides and rarities work in practice? The answer, after seeing Tuesday night's gig at Luna Park's Big Top, is surprising well. While the majority of Kylie's fans now look like extras from The Walking Dead, their enthusiasm and passion can't be faulted. Every forgotten gem was received like a massive number one hit with MAGs crying and shaking like 12 year-old girls at a One Direction concert. What followed was an unforgettable treat for the faithful and a reminder that the 43-year-old pop legend remains one of the most versatile and compelling live performers in the game.

The setlist for Kylie's first Sydney show (an encore followed later at 10:30pm) remained largely the same as the Melbourne leg - albeit with a couple of minor twists thrown in to keep fans guessing. X bonus track "Magnetic Electric" kicked off the evening's entertainment and was greeted with almost deafening applause. After so many years decades of seeing the rich man's Madonna dressed in elaborate costumes, it was strange and refreshing to see her in cut-off jeans and a singlet. She looked ridiculously hot and fired up the crowd with a joyous rendition of 1988's "Made In Heaven" and the aforementioned Bloodshy & Avant produced hit that never happened "Cherry Bomb". The former was worth the price of admission alone. Next up was the "I Believe In You" B-Side "BPM". Unlike Kylie, that track hasn't aged particularly well and could have been swapped for the exquisite "(Everything) I Know". For example.

After prowling around the stage like a young Debbie Harry, the critically acclaimed Street Fighter actress finally got a chance to catch her breath while performing "Mighty Rivers". That Xenomania-penned Aphrodite bonus track was brought to life with a lush arrangement that showed off her powerful live vocals. It was lovely but I would have preferred the vastly superior Japanese bonus track "Heartstrings", which is probably the best thing Xenomania has ever produced. "Over Dreaming (Over You)" and "Always Find The Time" were well-received steps down memory lane but the inclusion of the ultra-obscure Impossible Princess-era leaked track "You're The One" drew a blank from the crowd and really isn't very good. At all. The confusion soon dissipated with the still magnificent "Tightrope", which, after all these years, remains my favourite track on Fever. Almost as thrilling was the gorgeous Steve Anderson-penned ballad "Paper Dolls". I never thought I'd live to hear two thousand people singing "here we are we're like paper dolls and we're side by side"! So amazing.

Dannii's edgiest sibling then introduced X album track "Stars" by confiding that it was inspired by her battle with breast cancer. I never understood why she left it off her X2008 tour, it's such a great little song. By that stage we had reached the half-way mark and there was still no costume change in sight. The pop-star-doing-a-rock-show vibe reminded me a lot of Intimate & Live. Kylie even seemed to focus on songs from around that era. "Drunk" and Say Hey" (after which that shithole forum is named) represented the most experimental phase of her illustrious career. The lighting concept also changed with '90s rave-lasers beaming down on the audience and the pop icon let loose, dancing around the stage and waving at fans. Next up was “Too Much”, which the diva described as a gift from friends Calvin Harris and Jake Shears, and a pair of Light Years albums tracks – “Bittersweet Goodbye” and “Disco Down”. The former snoozefest was politely-received but the latter up-tempo pop explosion had everyone moving their feet.

“"I Don’t Need Anyone”, another gem from 1997’s Impossible Princess, proved that Kylie can still unleash her inner rock chick, while “Got To Be Certain” – a number one hit in Australia in 1988 – proved to be the most popular song of the night. Given the frenzied fan response, it’s hard to fathom why Keith Washington's one time duet partner has all but disowned the Stock Aitken Waterman-produced classic for 24 years. The show unexpectedly closed with “Things Can Only Get Better” – a fairly unmemorable cut Rhythm Of Love. To put it nicely. With a handful of cherished tracks like “Ocean Blue”, "One Boy Girl" and “Love Takes Over Me” still up her Anti-Tour sleeve, the song proved to be one of the evening’s few missteps. Really, who was knocking back a drink before the gig and thought I really hope she does "Things Can Only Get Better"?

After the shortest of breaks, Kylie returned for an encore wearing baby blue hot-pants and a t-shirt emblazoned with a picture of a woman’s bare breasts. It was an unusual fashion choice but I'm here for old women in appropriate clothing. The incredibly camp but still rather shit “That’s Why They Write Love Songs” – an unreleased anthem she unveiled on the opening night of her X2008 Tour and then promptly discarded - was unexpected but fans were clearly more interested in the snippets of songs she performed by request. There were a couple of verses of the fabulous unreleased track “Lovin’ You” and a sing-a-long rendition of “Word Is Out”. After almost two hours of non-stop music, Ms Minogue concluded the quirkiest tour of her career a pair of songs from Enjoy Yourself. “Tears On My Pillow” was dedicated to her dad, while the title track brought back a flood of memories for fans who have been there since the ‘80s. Kylie proved that she can still hold an audience in the palm of her pretty hand without any of her hits, trademark costume changes and elaborate staging. How many other pop stars – past or present – can say the same?

A rather different version of this review appears on US website Idolator.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Robyn Loau Takes On Kate Bush

It's been a while since we've heard from Robyn Loau but the former Girlfriend star is back with a killer cover of "Wuthering Heights". The seminal Kate Bush classic isn't the easiest song to interpret but the sultry singer does an amazing job. I'm glad Robyn is showing off her incredible pipes and I love the splashes of dub-step that drag the dramatic anthem kicking and screaming out of the '70s. A new remix of the song hits iTunes tomorrow - the original appears on the diva's criminally underrated Only Human album - and I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the full audio hits YouTube. In the meantime check out a teaser below. Kate would be proud. I think.

La Toya - The Making Of A Superstar

YouTube is a beautiful thing. Last week a generous member called CoEvi uploaded one of the best videos I've seen in a very long time. La Toya Jackson - The Making Of A Superstar was a two-part special that aired on Entertainment Tonight in 1984. Filmed to promote the impending release of Heart Don't Lie, the footage offers an intriguing glimpse into the world of my favourite Jackson before severe mismanagement and the husband-from-hell derailed her career and turned her into a laughing-stock. In that regard, it's like a documentary about the Titanic. Filmed the day before it sank.

The first thing you notice is how genuinely adorable La Toya is. The reporter asks her about growing up in the Jackson shadow and she replies that she simply doesn't know anything else. She comes across as grounded, smart and realistic - a far cry from the woman who would make a spectacle of herself on talk-shows around the world just a couple of years later. It's heartbreaking that Jack Gordon could break her spirit to the extent that she literally transformed into a different human-being. She deserves so much credit for escaping his clutches and re-establishing herself as the most successful living Jackson in the early noughties.

Another highlight is seeing how seriously CBS took Heart Don't Lie. The president of the company is seen advising Toy on her videos ("less street") and the conversation with Private I Records executives about pursuing a more European sound is fascinating. Ever the businesswoman, La Toya reminds them not to forget the Orient! My favourite part is the demented fangirl losing her shit at the 6:15 minute mark and the Pope of Pop declaring that she intends to follow Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross into films. Things didn't really work out the way the then 28-year-old might have hoped but she survived and is now more popular than ever. How many divas can say they are finally reaching their peak in their mid-50s? La Toya Jackson is the Benjamin Buttons of pop culture.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Will Anggun Lead France To Eurovision Glory?

To be honest, I haven't really been paying that much attention to this year's Eurovision contenders. Because, how do I put this, it's shaping up to be a bit of a shit event. The UK is sending a joke entry and Soraya is too busy burning up the Russian club charts to represent Spain - so why even bother? Well, here's one reason why Baku won't be a complete waste of time. The French entry is fucking amazing. Some of you might be familiar with Anggun. The Indonesian-born, French-adopted superstar had a massive worldwide hit in the late '90s called "Snow On The Sahara" and remains popular in Europe and Asia.

I haven't heard a lot of her music but I intend to remedy that after hearing "Echo (You And I)". This is icily beautiful electro-pop anthem is perfection and boasts the catchiest whistle-hook in recent memory. I love Anggun's husky voice and ability to look classy while wearing next to nothing. Like any good diva of a certain age, the Asian beauty is targeting the gays with her exquisite video. It features a cameo from Jean-Paul Gaultier and lots of male-models in underpants. Oh and guys in gas masks kissing. So chic! Check out the early frontrunner for 2012 Eurovision glory below.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bic Runga's Belle Showcase

On Tuesday night I dropped by The Vanguard to interview Bic Runga - our chat will appear on another website shortly - and catch her album showcase. It was a big deal for me because I've loved New Zealand's finest export since high school. I've probably played her 2002 triumph Beautiful Collision from beginning to end more often than any other record. With the possible exception of 4. Anyway, Bic is even lovelier than I imagined and the six-year holiday she took between albums hasn't affected her exquisite voice in the slightest.

I have to admit that Belle took me a while to get into. It's probably a little too sophisticated and mature for my ears but hearing a selection of tracks live helped me put it into perspective and I suspect it will turn out to be a massive grower. The 36-year-old songbird belted out the album's first two singles - I really love "Tiny Little Piece Of My Heart" (below) - but the highlight for me was hearing "Sway" again. That gem hasn't aged a day and brings back a million different memories. Bic only performed five songs but her powerful pipes and breathtaking musicianship (she played a different instrument for each number) has left me salivating for her upcoming tour.

Belle is in stores now and is an absolute treat for anyone that likes intricate, emotion-driven pop like Adele, Birdy or Lana Del Rey.

The End Of Time Debate

King B wasn't kidding when she sang about being strong enough to bear the children and then get back to bidness on "Run The World (Girls)". Less than three months have passed since Blue Ivy took her first breath and her mother is already returning to her day-job of being better than your faves. "End Of Time" was serviced to UK radio this week and reports are circulating that a video is in the works. If this were any other single I'd be celebrating like Ashanti when she learned she still had a record deal but "End Of Time" is special. It's easily one of the best songs of the new millennium and deserves more than a rush-release to keep Bey on radio while she works on her next masterpiece. If she's going to do this, I really hope it's done right. The Diplo/Dream/Switch co-production demands an epic video and actual promotion. Circulating the Live At Roseland live clip (below) just won't cut it. I guess time will tell but I'm convinced that the owner of Rihanna's ratchet wig is too smart to waste one of the best songs in her repertoire.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

La Toya Is The New Meryl Streep

Those boring actresses from flop shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire must be so pressed right now because 90210 already has the Best Actress in a Drama Series trophy in the bag at next year's Emmy Awards. Last night La Toya rocked the acting profession to its very foundations with her breathtaking return to television. We all know that Toy can act. Her turn as a youth-obsessed voodoo priestess in Counterstrike - watch her scenes here - is probably part of the NIDA curriculum alongside Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice and Jessica Lange in Frances. However, several decades have passed since Janet's prettier sister last conquered television and some lame haters wondered if she had lost that Midas touch. It goes without saying that they couldn't have been more wrong.

As you can see from these two defining moments in television history, La Toya's acting ability has actually improved. She delves into her role as a hard-hitting music mogul with all the passion of a young Laurence Olivier. In the first scene (above), she gives sublime side-eye to the young musician and exquisitely shades his friend. It's breathtaking stuff but she keeps the best for last. I was glued to the screen when Toy stole the entire series by offering the guy a record deal before threatening to take it away again unless he betrayed his friend. I had goosebumps and all that trademark finger-pointing gave me life. I imagine this is what a normal day at Ja-Tail Records looks like, so you know it's a highly accurate depiction of the music industry. Now when is someone going offer Toy a movie role? She is everything and more.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

RuPaul Rocks Brisbane And My World

Gay men across Queensland are currently walking around in neck braces. That's how hard RuPaul rocked Brisbane on the weekend. Spectators were left with whiplash, wig-envy and the overwhelming urge to download La Toya albums. But more about the drag legend's epic performance at the sunshine state's Big Gay Day festival. As you might remember from this post, I got the chance to interview Mr Charles in February. During that conversation we discussed our mutual adoration for the thinking man's Jackson at length. It takes a certain kind of person to appreciate the unbridled genius of genre-defining anthems like this, so I knew I had stumbled upon a kindred spirit. Well, on the night before his first QLD gig in 18 years, we had the chance to continue our chat. RuPaul is an adorable man with a huge heart and a razor sharp wit. I loved discussing La Toya's undeniable impact on popular culture with him as well as explaining my Beyoncé obsession and exploring the gems in Stephanie Mills' back catalogue. It was a lovely and completely surreal experience - so thank you, Ru.

After getting the chance to meet the supermodel of the world, I was even more excited about seeing him strut his stuff live. I saw the great diva's one-song Mardi Gras performance and was looking forward to seeing the full show. That appearance in Sydney drew some negative press but I honestly think it stems from critics not understanding the fundamentals of drag. It's performance art. It's comedy. It's the magic of illusion. In RuPaul's case, it's also about sharing brilliant pop music. I can't believe people went along to his show and complained about trivial shit like backing tapes and back-up dancers. Seriously, bitches - take an aisle full of seats! Rant over. So Brisbane's Big Gay Day is something of an experience. It takes place in a back alley, between a parking station and a pub. RuPaul's dressing room was a truck parked across the street. Guys drove to the venue in their Utes. While the event had a definite... rustic vibe, it was also one of the most relaxed and welcoming pride festivals I've ever attended. People were genuinely excited about the Drag Race mogul's visit and several fans told me they had been supporting Ru for more than twenty years.

As the final support act left the stage at 9pm, the booze was flowing and the anticipation was growing. I wasn't sure if it was going to be a full set or a small showcase. It turned out to be the former. Ru strutted on stage with more attitude than La Toya in her epic and highly influential "You're Gonna Get Rocked" video. The wig and make-up was immaculate and I loved the colourful '70s-tastic jumpsuit. Drag's leading lady began the show with 2009's "Covergirl", which he performed in sultry style against a projection at the back of the stage. Next up was RuPaul's iconic hoodrat anthem "Tranny Chaser". The song has always been on my faves - I like to think of it as the saucy sister of Bey's "Freakum Dress"! - and it sounded great live. I loved Ru's cute quips and he threw in some fierce choreography. That was followed by the title track of last year's Glamazon album. Words can't express how much I worship this jam. This tune needs a video, remixes and radio airplay. It's too much fun to waste!

After a lightning fast costume change, RuPaul returned in a beautiful gown to belt out 2004's "Looking Good Feeling Gorgeous". I'm glad something from Red Hot made the cut. I always thought that album was extremely underrated. "Call Me Starrbooty" was another unexpected inclusion - at least, I thought so - but everyone knew the words. Ru's fans came prepared! It was great to hear a couple of the diva's less familiar gems, particularly when they were performed with so much passion and style. Nobody strikes a pose better than RuPaul. The next anthem whipped the crowd into an even bigger frenzy. "Jealous Of My Boogie" is such a cute song. I love the retro sound and think it was a perfect choice for Big Gay Day. It was then time for the pop icon to close the show with his signature tune. "Supermodel" never gets old. Name-checking the Jacksons was inspired and he walked that stage like Naomi Campbell in her non-crazy hey day. My fellow Toy Soldier then gave me a shout-out saying "Mike, you just got rocked!" Truer words were never spoken. Check out Ru talking about our La Toya talk earlier in the show below. It was so sweet and unexpected. Toy truly does bring people together.

Carrie Underwood Goes Pop

I stan hard for Carrie Underwood. She's one of my favourite country diva - along with Dolly and Shania - and I've been gagging for new material from her. So I was more than a little excited when "Good Girl" dropped a couple of weeks ago. At first I was startled by her shift in direction. It's not like the former American Idol was ever a traditional blue-grass singer strumming a banjo but this is a definite move towards a more radio-friendly pop sound. And I say fair play. Taylor Swift is riding the country-pop gravy train all the way to the bank and Carrie wants a slice of the pie. I just didn't expect her to snatch Tay Tay's wig this easily. "Good Girl" is a high-camp country-tinged rock/pop anthem of the highest calibre. This is what I imagine Kelly Clarkson would sound like if she recorded an album in Nashville. It's big and bold with the kind of gutsy chorus Kelegend would kill for. The video finally dropped yesterday and it's sufficient. Carrie basically looks really pretty and wears lots of different outfits. Not exactly "Run The World (Girls)" but it will do. Check it out below and download the track from iTunes now.

Lana Del Rey Unleashes Blue Jeans Cover Art

And it's everything and more. I love the "Where The Wild Roses Grow" dynamic happening between Lana and her thug lover. It's so grim yet darkly beautiful. Which is actually a perfection description for the song, and I guess, Adele 2.0's music in general. I'm still not entirely sure "Blue Jeans" is the best choice for her next single - it was the original B-side to "Video Games" and has been all over the net for what feels like an eternity - but the track itself can't be faulted and I have a feeling a flawless visual is on the way. If not Lana's "homemade" original video is still better than your fave's last big-budget extravaganza. Soak up that Del Rey magic below.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gossling's Wild Love Video

A couple of weeks ago I posted the audio of Gossling's new single and declared it my new obsession. well, nothing's changed. If anything "Wild Love" has grown on me even more. This is easily one of the best songs of 2012 and deserves to be massive. The leap from indie darling to mainstream pop sensation is never easy but an arresting video definitely helps. See Kimbra's "Settle Down" for a recent example. Unfortunately, Gossling's visual isn't quite of that calibre. It's definitely cute and quirky - I love all the yarn and the twist at the end - but it seems a little underdone. The lighting is particularly unflattering and it takes far too long to get going. An epic song like this needed something more dazzling and dramatic. Anyway, "Wild Love" remains sublime and I've already pre-ordered my copy of the EP - signed, no less! - from JB Hi-Fi. Check out the video below.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Am I Just Getting Old Or Is The New Norah Jones Single Kind Of Amazing?

I really can't believe my favourite jam at the moment is a Norah Jones song. It's like the world has been turned upside down. Somewhere in the suburbs my mum is probably driving to Coles blasting Skrillex right now! But back to "Happy Pills". How good is it? Produced by Danger Mouse (AKA the non-Cee Lo member of Gnarls Barkley), the breezy break-up anthem is everything and more. The subtle but completely addictive avalanche of hooks makes Norah's best single since "Don't Know Why" an instantly hummable delight. I also love low key and, dare I say it, vampy she soundson that track. If this is any indication of the material on her soon-to-be released ...Little Broken Hearts album, I'm on board big time. Check it out below.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Bow Wow Wow - It's Luciana's Next Smash!

Here's a sneaky preview of Luciana's next UK single "Bow Wow Wow". The killer club anthem features long-time collaborators Bodyrox as well as rap sensation Chipmunk and includes no less than two Christina Aguilera references! So it kind of goes without saying that it's amazing and needs to go straight to #1. But enough about the song. How brilliant is the Burgoyne Brothers-produced teaser? I'm not sure about the dog in PVC at the beginning but Boo - the canine star - is absolutely adorable and I love the way it's been put together. "Bow Wow Wow" features on the soundtrack to StreetDance 2 and will rock British music fans in April. Sounds like a smash to me.

Jessie J - Live In Sydney

Last September I asked the million dollar question: How do you solve a problem like Jessie J? Well, six months have passed and I'm still no closer to finding the answer. Last night's gig only served to underline everything that's wrong - and right - about one of pop music's most frustrating artists. The 23-year-old Brit has talent to burn and a pocketful of killer tunes. Unfortunately, she's also prone to over-singing even the most basic lyric and has an Adele-sized chip on her shoulder that grates everyone except the most deluded loyal heartbeat. Speaking of the diva's militant fan army, five and a half thousand of them squeezed into a sold-out Hordern Pavillion to see their icon in action and, if their non-stop crying and screaming was any indication, they had the time of their lives. I wish I could say the same.

Jessie J was almost unrecognisable when she strutted on stage. Looking more like Loose-era Nelly Furtado than the bob-wearing tom-boy of her videos, she burst into a vocally flawless rendition of "Who's Laughing Now". Her band was tight and she seemed a lot less awkward than during her recent award show performances. The high standard continued with a funk-heavy version of "Rainbow" and a reggae-tastic interpretation of "Stand Up", which she mashed with Bob Marley's "One Love". Album fave "Casualty Of Love" was followed by a heartbeat-rousing take on her brilliant top 10 hit "Nobody's Perfect". By this stage I was about shed my apprehensions and join the hyperventilating tweens around me but it was mostly downhill from here.

The remainder of the show was very ballad heavy. "Abracadabra", "L.O.V.E." and "Mama Knows Best" were all excuses for Jessie to practice her vocal scales. Most women don't wail like this during childbirth. It's so off-putting and unnecessary. We all know she can sing. All that trilling just makes her sound insane. The perfect example of how she can ruin excellent material with this annoying approach was "Who You Are", which is actually a beautiful song. Unfortunately, all I heard was frantic screaming and a five minute lecture about loving yourself and not giving into haters. We get it, Jessie. Kids hated you at school. But you're rich and famous now - move on! Happily, the encore was great. "Do It Like A Dude" is such a hot mess and bringing a fan on stage to share vocal duties on "Price Tag" was really cute. She saved "Domino" for last and that already hot track sounded ten times better live. I really want to like this chick. Can she please just get over herself and stop shouting?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Estelle Finally Has An Amazing Song

And it flopped like everything else she has ever released. Seriously, what is it with this poor bitch? With the exception of the Kanye West-assisted "American Boy", Estelle can't give her shit away. Usually that's because the diva's music is dire middle-of-the-road R&B but "Back To Love" is an absolute anthem. I fucking adore this song. The Jerry 'Wonder' Duplessis-produced (he did Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie and Keri Hilson's amazing "All The Boys") gem covers unusual ground - lyrically and musically.

It's written from the perspective of someone that struggled through a break-up and finally got their groove back. Think of it as an unusually mature memo to an ex saying hey, I'm alright. The production is a breath of fresh air too. I love that it's upbeat and extremely catchy without sounding like a Taio Cruz demo. If only Estelle pursued this kind of material more often she wouldn't be a one hit wonder. We all know she's talented but "All Of Me" is such an uneven bore. I like the next single ("Wonderful Life") but apart from that it's a cure for insomnia.

Anyway, none of that matters at the moment. Just check out her one great contribution to popular music below and get ready to fall in love.

Is Ria The One?

One of the more obscure entries in my Best Singles of 2011 countdown belonged to a Kiwi diva called Ria. While there's no denying that "Over You" sounds like a track from Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad, the #27 New Zealand chart smash has a raw and uplifting quality that raises it above simple clone status. I've been dying to hear what the former girlband member - she was part of an outfit called Vivah - does next and her follow-up single is just as much fun. "The One", not a Kylie cover, is cute little dance-pop gem that positions Ria as the Kiwi Jessica Mauboy. And I mean that as a huge compliment. New Zealand has a history of producing great female folk-pop singers (Bic Runga, Brooke Fraser, Kimbra etc) but they don't do dance particularly well, so this girl is something of a pioneer. Fingers crossed it works because I really want an album! Check out the cute clip, which finds Ria hanging with her homeboys, and download the song from Australian iTunes now.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

La Toya's Award Winning Live Triumph

Accolade after dazzling accolade has been bestowed upon La Toya in her glittering career. From having her footprints immortalised in Rotterdam's star-studded Walk Of Fame to winning a Grammy for her integral contribution to "We Are The World", the exquisite 55-year-old beauty has done it and won it all. But one award shines a little brighter than the others. Of course I'm talking about Toy Toy's triumphant appearance at Japan's World Popular Song Festival in 1985 where "Baby Sister" snatched the trophy for Outstanding Song.

As it turns out that award is something of a consolation prize - it actually came 4th overall - but it's beside the point. The Pope of Pop won something and that's all that matters! I've been looking for footage of Toy's moment in the sun for years with no luck but it finally popped up on YouTube. Brace yourself for bravura tour de force that will blow your mind. Forget about her less charismatic siblings or that has-been Madonna. This is the best live performance of the '80s hands down. Watch in awe as La Toya pulls off mind-blowing choreography and holds notes that may or may not endanger your pet.

Oh and keep your eyes peeled for Janet, who sings back up for her prettier sister. This is pure pop dynamite!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Kylie - Live At Mardi Gras

When I woke up on Saturday morning and looked out the window, I pretty much decided to skip Mardi Gras. Rain was pouring from the sky faster than Madonna's latest single fell from the charts and the prospect of spending another party crammed in the RHI with an army of drenched gays and smudged trannies didn't fill me with as much excitement as you might expect. But missing Kylie? Not an option. I've seen that woman perform in three different countries and even planned a holiday around her last appearance at GAY. What's a mild downpour, a little discomfort and a lot of dehydration between old friends?

So there I was squashed between 6,000 screaming party people when Ms Minogue took the stage at 2am. There was no air circulating through the packed-to-capacity venue and I'm pretty sure the temperature was pushing 50 degrees. Gays were dropping like flies and one of my friends had to crawl to an exit to get some air but I wasn't about to miss a second. Kylie appeared on stage looking like a glittering warrior princess and kicked off her first official K25 performance with "Aphrodite". It's not my favourite song by a long shot but it works in a live setting and I was extremely impressed with the lights, staging and costumes. The 43-year-old looked gorgeous in her golden headdress and matching high-high boots and sounded brilliant.

That not-quite-an-anthem was followed by "Wow", which struck me as a much better choice. It doesn't get any gayer than this Greg Kurstin-produced hit! I loved seeing the positive fan response to the song after all the flack it received on release and thought it blended into "In Your Eyes" surprisingly well. Again, that wouldn't be my first choice to represent the all-conquering Fever-era but it was a number one hit in Australia and at least she didn't choose "Love At First Sight". Um. Ok, so that was the next song. I prayed she wouldn't end the show with it - as was her habit for about a decade - but she broke into a beautiful version of "I Believe In You" and everything was back on track.

The sentiment of "I Believe In You" was perfect for the night and I adored the choreography but the best was yet to come. Kylie's Samba-tastic take on "Better The Devil You Know" was pure gold. This is the most interesting interpretation of her signature tune I've ever heard. It was vibrant and silly and utterly irresistible. The pop legend actually shook her famous arse instead of hand-dancing and her energy was infectious. She quickly left the stage for a costume change while her dancers performed acrobatic feats to "Slow" before returning to close with her last Australian top 50 hit "Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)". That relatively unknown track went down well but I had a feeling she would be back from an encore. And Kylie didn't let us down. Sure, she re-emerged looking like tranny roadkill - hands down the worst outfit she has ever worn! - but "All The Lovers" sounded as gorgeous as ever and the young and single man's Minogue proved once again why she is the country's most enduring pop export.


This is not the look.

First Look At Stan Walker's New Single Cover

After a couple of questionable single choices, Stan Walker has selected a real winner for the third cut from Let The Music Play. I mentioned "Music Won't Break Your Heart" in my list of DNA's 12 best songs and wondered why hasn't been unleashed on radio. I slightly prefer his other DNA collaboration "Who We Are" but this is a very hot record and should re-establish the Kiwi crooner as a chart force. It reminds me a lot of Breezy's "Turn Up The Music", which is a very good thing. Watch Stan talk about the song (below) and stay tuned for what I hear is going to be a rather spectacular video clip.