Sunday, June 24, 2012

Born This Way Ball - Live In Sydney - Review

It's strange the difference a year can make. When the Monster Ball rolled into town, I was a raised paw (and a smidgen of self-respect) away from being a little monster. The Fame and Fame Monster lifted the bar for modern dance-pop albums and I loved her theatrical stage presence. But the Born This Way era lost me. The album was not very good and the increasingly awful videos demonstrated that she is, essentially, a one trick pony with an increasingly tired message. And yet, I was still excited to see her on Wednesday night. The 26-year-old (stop laughing) is a brilliant live performer and already has a stronger back catalogue than most of your dusty faves. It's a shame then that the Born This Way ball is the concert equivalent of a drag show crossed with a self-help seminar.

Hordes of fans made the pilgrimage to Allphones Arena for Lady Gaga's first of four sold-out Sydney dates in full costume. Pretty impressive given that the stadium is almost an hour by train from the city. It's a long way to go wearing coke-can rollers, hair-bows and pointy shoulder pads! Their dedication can't be faulted and I was genuinely moved when an awkward teenager standing next to me burst into tears at the mere sight of his icon. I know what it's like to be that wrapped up in an artist and I hope he enjoyed every second of show. Lady Gaga really is the second coming for teenage gays and ugly people and she deserves a lot of credit for preaching a positive message of self-acceptance. But it's time to change the record because this shit is starting to get old.

In all fairness, the show began in spectacular fashion. Lady Gaga emerged from what looked Castle Grayskull, chained to the back of a horse. She was then marched around the circular runway by her captors, while belting out "Highway Unicorn (Road To Love)" from underneath a mask. It was dark, gothic and dangerous. This is the kind of visual mayhem Gaga is capable of when she's not trying to reinvent the wheel. Unfortunately, it was largely downhill from there. The heinous crime against music otherwise known as "Government Hooker" came next and the stupid talking head from her "Born This Way" video made an appearance to announce a ridiculous narrative that I couldn't follow. Speaking of that crappy song, she finally escaped the confines of her bulky costume to perform it - complete with one of the evening's few well-choreographed dance routines.

Next up was the painfully uncontroversial Black Jesus segment. Mother Monster took the chance to launch into the first of many rants about loving yourself and expressing your individuality. The diva begged the audience not to give a fuck. She should practice what she preaches and stop obsessing over Madonna. But I digress. "Bloody Mary" was a complete non-event and "Bad Romance" wasn't given the epic treatment it deserves. That majestic anthem will stand the test of time unlike 90% of Born This Way and deserved more than a half-arsed dance in the castle courtyard. It was at about this time that the staging really began to annoy me. Lady Gaga is one of the few pop stars that can simultaneously sing and dance but the poor bitch had about two metres of stage to play with. I'm sure the castle cost a fortune but it looked cheap and tacky. This is definitely a case where less would have been more.

"Judas" already sounds dated but the Born This Way ball momentarily came alive when Gaga performed "Just Dance" and "LoveGame". Those hits brought the non-monsters in the audience to their feet and she was genuinely engaging when she talked about how far she had come since the release of the former. It's easy to forget that "Just Dance" was a number one hit in Australia almost a year before it exploded overseas, so I guess we can lay claim to hatching the superstar. Yay? I got a particular kick out of hearing "Telephone" but it's really not the same without Beyoncé there to add some class and sex appeal. It did, however, spark my favourite part of the show when Lady Gaga joked around with fans, making references to '90s bands and cult classic Clueless. This is the woman I want to see more of - not the well-intentioned but frankly annoying self-love advocate that polluted the rest of the show.

For such an expensive production, I think most of her outfits looked like bad Mardi Gras costumes. What's worse - they were just recycled ensembles from videos or the red carpet. Lady Gaga is supposed to be an innovator, so why has her image not evolved for 3 years? One exception was the human motorcycle look she rocked for "Heavy Metal Lover". That was hot and I loved the soft-porn interlude where a dancer pretended to eat her out. Next came "Bad Kids" - one of the best jams from Born This Way - and I started warming up to concert. But alas the closet Loli Lux fan decided to give us a lecture on homosexuality, including the incredibly offensive pearl of wisdom "you don't have to be a cunt to be gay". Excuse me? What kind of stereotypical shit is that? More importantly - who nominated this bitch to be a spokeswoman for the gay community? Is she bi, transgender or a lesbian? Has she had to go through the torture of coming out? No wonder little monsters have a higher suicide rate than unemployed Korean businessmen. She doesn't have a fucking clue what she's talking about.

Speaking of Lady Gaga's growing number of dead fans, the next cringe-worthy moment was a stripped-back ballad version of "Hair" dedicated to the recently departed. I love "Hair". It should have been the album's lead single. It's a brilliant pop song but it's not a fitting tribute - at least lyrically - and I felt genuinely uncomfortable when the bossy singer demanded everyone join her in a prayer. She even got shitty when people refused to take part. Gaga has built her career on preaching acceptance but I guess it doesn't extend to the non-religious. The "Hair" debacle was followed by "You And I". I don't particularly like the track but she sounded great and looked amazing playing the keyboard with one leg perched over a dancer's head. She is a scarily talented performer and could be even better if only she would tone down the increasingly boring performance art aspect of her shsow. She doesn't have to be over the top all the time.

"Electric Chapel" is a complete snooze on record and was just as boring live but sounds like a masterpiece in comparison to "Americano". That pretentious mess - performed in the cheapest plastic imitation of her iconic meat dress - was abysmal. The staging was a complete joke too with female dancers being mutilated in giant meat grinders. I'm sure Lady Gaga thinks she's making an important political statement but it just came across as another lame grab for attention. "Poker Face" still sounds great but isn't it time to start playing with the arrangement? It was just the same old thing with the same dance routine as the video. I was over the Born This Way ball by that stage and did something I haven't done in years - I pushed a bunch of monsters aside and left before the end of the show. The prospect of getting home early was more appealing than seeing the end of the concert. Which speaks volumes.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ali Lohan - A Career Retrospective

With Lindsay Lohan about to be crowned the new Meryl Streep with her sure-to-be triumphant return to acting in Liz & Dick, I think it's only fair her much-maligned younger sister gets a second shot at stardom. Ali is clearly the La Toya of the Lohan clan. Her stunning beauty and haunting vocals were too much for Hollywood the first time around. The skeletal songbird was mocked for looking post-menopausal at the age of 15 and she was accused of getting more plastic surgery than Madonna. So cruel and heartless! Not that Ali's career was a total failure. The now successful model (according to her bio) was memorably vacant in the reality mess otherwise known as Living Lohan and she had a flawless, if short, music career.

I don't care what anybody says - Lindsay Lohan was an amazing pop star. Both of her albums were epic and I still salivate at the prospect of one day hearing her scrapped third opus featuring "Bossy". While Ali never experienced the same success as her sibling, I think she was just as gifted. After releasing a Christmas album as a 12-year-old, the forgotten Lohan shook pop music to its very foundations with 2008's "All The Way Around". Written by hitmaker Kara DioGuardi, the track is a slick mid-tempo faux-urban ballad. Think JoJo when she still made good music. Her vocal is smooth and I'm still hypnotised by the glorious chorus. The song was supposed to launch Ali as a pop star but it stalled outside the Hot 100 and even its number 22 chart placing in Slovakia - no shit - couldn't save her album from being lumped on the shelf next to Her Name is Nicole. Revisit this modern classic (below) and join me in praying for a long-overdue comeback.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A New Career High For Kelly Rowland

There's no stopping one-woman hit machine Kelly Rowland. Fresh from releasing 97 buzz singles to promote her not quite Gold-selling album Here I Am, the motivated diva is back with an upbeat cover of an early '90s German pop classic for a Bacardi rum commercial. Could your lame fave? While perhaps not the classiest moment of Ms Kelly's career, I think it's one of her best. Here's why:

1. Bacardi commercials only feature iconic divas. Last year it was Spanish pop legend Marta Sanchez and her stunning club-banger "Get Together" ended up being one of my favourite tracks of 2012. 

2. America won't let Kelly be great. Sure, "Motivation" was a hit but I'm convinced that was largely due to pressed Beyoncé haters downloading the song to derail "Run The World (Girls)". So it's smart for critically unacclaimed Freddy Vs Jason actress to focus on the European market and this sound works there. 

3. "Summer Dreaming" is a well-executed cover of an iconic '90s hit by Kate Yanai. The original version was a huge hit in Germany, reaching number one and selling half a million copies in 1991. It was time for someone to recycle this gem and I love the uptempo overhaul. 

4. The video was shot in Barcelona and is a clear homage to Michelle Williams' "On The Run", which was also filmed in Spain. Tenitra's non-charting club smash had a much bigger budget but Kelly looks pretty and she gets to party with a bunch of drunk Spaniards. Winning. 

I really like this trash and hope it's a big hit for her.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

La Toya Vs Kylie - Who Did Locomotion Better?

With a total of 10 Australian number one hits, 7 UK chart-toppers and one top 40 Dutch club hit between them, it's fair to say that Kylie and La Toya are two of the most iconic pop stars of all time. Their amazing cultural legacy defies belief as does the fact that they are both still at the top of their game after four triumphant decades. You would think they would have joined forces by now but obviously the world is not ready for a duet. The superstars have, however, crossed paths - at least artistically. Kylie catapulted to fame in 1987 with a cover of Little Eva's "Locomotion". The song would go on become the highest selling Australian single of the 1980s. More importantly, it left a lasting impression on another talented diva cursed to live in the shadow of a more successful younger sibling. La Toya Jackson performed the song during her six-month residency at Moulin Rouge in 1992 and recorded a version on her Formidable live album. The question remains - who did it better?

Now I know how Sophie felt when she had to choose between her children. This is an almost impossible task. They both raised the song to glittering new heights and made it their own. Toy's version (above) showcases her legendary vocals superbly and allows her to give a master class in choreography. Could your fave shuffle across the stage like a bedazzled crab? Her outfit is wonderfully understated and that hairstyle is utter perfection. It would seem hard to beat but then I found a "live" performance from Kylie (below) and almost fainted. How amazing is her bow-covered tulle mini-skirt and that ridiculous pile of hair extensions? It's quite possibly the most fabulous outfit of the 1980s! I also like the original non-SAW production on hers better. So after minutes of serious consideration, I have to call it a tie. Thoughts?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Meiko & The Year's Cutest Pop Song

A couple of days ago I noticed Meiko's "Stuck On You" shooting up Australian iTunes (it's already top 100). It was a bit of a surprise given the LA based singer-songwriter's status as the underground Jewel/non-annoying Colbie Caillat. I assumed the song currently features in an advertisement or was recently destroyed by someone on The Voice but I can't find any evidence of a tie-in, so maybe the nation has suddenly developed good taste. "Stuck On You" is so adorable it hurts. The lyrics are cuter than a kitten cuddling a teddy bear and Meiko's voice has a doll-like quality that reminds me of a less depressed Lisa Loeb. And then there's the quirky video (below). My future wife makes turkey meatballs in a muffin tin! Nigella Lawson could never! This tune has huge crossover potential and has the potential to explode with a bit of radio airplay. Expect to hear "Stuck On You" at hipster weddings and commitment ceremonies for years to come. I love it.

Stooshe Claim The Girlband Throne

Well over a year ago I wrote a post about a British girlband called Stooshe. At the time they were a relatively unknown viral sensation due to an explicit song called "Fuck Me". They continued on their merry way and finally had their long-deserved commercial breakthrough when "Fuck Me" was re-released as "Love Me" in March - complete with a cameo by Travie McCoy. It became a top 5 hit and the lovely ladies are now officially the next big thing. Instead of crumbling under the expectation, they have raised the bar even higher. "Black Heart" is the cutest Motown throwback I've heard in a very long time. I'm completely obsessed with this flawless gem. Everything about it is perfection. Beautifully understated production, killer vocals and one of the best videos of 2012 (below). Even the remixes are amazing! Forget about The Saturdays and those flop Korean girlbands The Prophet is always ranting about. Stooshe is the only bunch of babes you need to have on your radar!

Remembering When Rihanna & Two Other Flops Paid Tribute To Destiny's Child

Way back in 2005 a trio of sad flops were wheeled out to pay homage to Destiny's Child at the World Music Awards. Those "ladies" were queen of the mixtape Teairra Mari, forgotten R&B diva Amerie and a clueless hoe called Rihanna. The performance is interesting - and memorable - for a number of reasons:

1. The focus was clearly on Tea Tea. Given her complete lack of success, it's very easy to forget that she was once, very briefly, hailed as the next big thing.

2. As usual, Amerie is all but hidden behind a curtain. I don't know what this woman has to do to get some respect. Even in her hey day she was an afterthought! Of the three, she is clearly the only one who can sing in key.

3. Rihanna looks like a deer caught in headlights. Bitch can't sing or dance, so obviously she's the one that became a superstar.

4. This shows how kind and sweet Beyoncé really is. Instead of laughing or filing her nails, she claps and sings along and generally appears to be enjoying the show.

5. Kelly and Michelle, on the other hand, all but roll their eyes and give the girls major side-eye. I'm sure Jesus wouldn't approve of the scowl on Tenitra's face but I sure do!

6. Most of all, this clip is awesome because it underlines the amazing talent of Destiny's Child. They make the (then) rising stars look like complete chumps by comparison. DC3 never missed a dance move - apart from the time Michelle fell off the stage - and were always pitch perfect.

Watch a bunch of pretenders take on "Lose My Breath" below.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Why Can't They Let Nicole Be Great?

Like millions of people around the world, I lined up to see Men In Black 3 for one reason - the critically (un-)acclaimed acting debut of R&B legend Nicole Scherzinger. The former Pussycat Doll's three minute cameo revived the flop movie  franchise but her glorious visage is nowhere to be seen on the film's poster. What's going on? After minutes hours of research into this shocking oversight, I settled on three possible culprits.

1. Rihanna thwarted Nicole's moment in the sun. Bitch obviously knew Hitzinger's movie would murder Battleship at the box office and preemptively snatched her wig. Rude. 

2. Fearful that the most beautiful woman alive would drive a wedge between her parent's fake marriage, Willow jumped on Photoshop to delete the film's true star from advertising. 

3. Nicole pulled the posters herself. Knowing the publicity would result in a mass stampede for copies of Killer Love, the precious Puakenikeni put her millions of fans first and bowed out gracefully. So selfless!

It's a tragedy but one hard-hitting news agency paid tribute to the diva's soon-to-be legendary film debut with a stunning report about Nicky's scene-stealing ways (below). Could you fave overcome these hurdles and still be in the running for an Oscar? Bow down.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Kylie's Five Worst Singles

This is a hard post for me to write. Not only does it pain me to shade Queen Kylie but, for someone that has been in the game longer than most of us have been alive, she has rarely put a foot wrong. I worship the new and improved Dannii's SAW output, obsess over the Deconstruction era and love the vast majority of her Parlophone singles. However, the stinker that is "Timebomb" - sorry, I did try - has got me thinking about a couple of the diva's other, rare missteps. Most of these songs are still better than your fave's finest moment but here are Kylie's worst singles according to moi:  

5. Lhuna - Coldplay featuring Kylie (Audio)

Charity single 

Do you remember when Chris Martin said this meandering turd didn't make Viva La Vida because it was "too sexy"? That's obviously code for "fucking rubbish". Kylie basically mumbles her way through this five minute cure for insomnia sounding even more bored than the three people that bought it to raise money for AIDS awareness. I love the employed Minogue's collaborations but this belongs in the bin next to "Sometime Samurai".  

4. Timebomb (Video)

Promo single 

The idea was right - something current and commercial that dabbles in chart-friendly electro beats but the execution is abysmal. Horrible production, pointless lyrics and a non-existent chorus turned this into a chart bomb. Pun intended. Read my full review here.  

3. Kids - Robbie Williams and Kylie (Video)  

Light Years 

Yeah, I know it helped revive Kylie's career in a lot of countries and remains a radio staple to this very day but I hated this rank duet then and it still leaves me cold. Not that the dreary pop/rock ballad is entirely useless. I always take "Kids" as my cue to run to the toilet or bar during concerts and it did give Dannii an opportunity to perform in front of an audience larger than the 300 people that fronted up to her Hits & Beyond world tour at Sydney's Home nightclub.  

2. Better Than Today (Video)  


There really was no excuse for releasing this middle-of-the-road snooze as the third single from Aphrodite when there were genuinely great pop songs like "Cupid Boy" and "Closer" to choose from. The generic piece of filler killed the album and positioned the pop princess as an inane Mother's Day artist with no edge or personality. I have no idea what they were thinking. "Better Than Today" was the ultimate record label brain-fart. Talk about shooting yourself, and your artist, in the foot.

1. Giving You Up

Ultimate Kylie 

At the time everyone was so excited about Kylie working with Xenomania. The production house had previously worked magic for divas like Cher and Dannii, and they were (inexplicably) lauded for their (generic) work with (flop) girlband Girls Aloud. Xenomania were also responsible for some fantastic leaked demos. It all pointed to a match made in heaven but, unfortunately, our girl got their sloppy seconds. "Giving You Up" is one of the worst songs Kylie has ever recorded - let alone released as a single. Lazy lyrics, tinny production and a god awful video clip (below) makes this the low point of her entire career. Happily, Xenomania redeemed themselves with "Heartstrings". It's my favourite track on Aphrodite and one of the prettiest mid-tempo ballads in recent memory.

Monday, June 04, 2012

The 4 Era - Not Over Yet?

Since slaying the game for the umpteenth time in career at Revel a couple of weeks ago, there has been some speculation about Beyoncé's next move. Some "insiders" (ie. delusional stans) predict a world tour and an official "End Of Time" video, while others say she is already working on her fifth genre-defining masterpiece. The truth might be somewhere in the middle. About a month ago I was lucky enough to hear two official remixes for as yet unreleased singles from 4. The songs in question were "I Was Here" - not that surprising given its status a quasi-single in Australia and recent destruction on Glee - and "Start Over". The latter was a real shock.

For me "Start Over" is easily the worst song on 4 but the remix is absolutely incredible. The mid-tempo snooze has been transformed into a dark and dangerous house anthem that stands toe-to-toe with Bey's best club-bangers. Both remixes were done by a high-profile DJ outfit that has worked with King B several times in the past but as yet they remain on the shelf gathering dust next to the 40 or so other songs Beyoncé recorded for the best album of 2011. The question remains - what are they for? Remixes for a belated club release like "Why Don't You Love Me?" or tracks for a scrapped remix album? I guess only time will tell. In the meantime, imagine how much better "Start Over" (below) would sound with dirty house beats.

Cosmo Jarvis - Brilliant New Song & Mesmerising Penis

Cosmo's breakthrough sea shanty "Gay Pirates" was one of last year's best singles. The Brit's experimental approach to music and dark sense of humour, expressed mainly through his twisted videos, established him as one of the rising stars of the alt-pop music scene. Well, the 22-year-old is back with the first taste of his third album and it's another gem. I interviewed Cosmo late last year and he said he was going to steer away from the quirky rap-rock material that drew the critics' wrath on his next opus and he appears to have kept his word. "Love This" sounds like something Jason Mraz would sing if he actually had an opinion. At first listen it's rather gentle, radio-friendly pop-rock but the typically razor-sharp lyrics have Cosmo's sticky fingers all over them. And then there's the video. I'm sorry but I'm mesmerised by the singer's swinging cock. This is like watching the men's 100 metres at the Olympics but at a lower speed! Listen to the pop pioneer's future JJJ hit below.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Luciana Rocks The Ivy

I've lost track of how many times I've seen Luciana strut her stuff live. I know I've written reviews for a club gig in Adelaide and an unlikely appearance at a pub in Newcastle but I've also witnessed her in action at Luna Park, Nevermind and some random gay bar in Brisbane. Last night the Queen of clubs brought her high-energy spectacular to Sydney's Ivy nightclub and it was definitely one of her best shows yet. The Ivy isn't the easiest place to perform in given the layout and multiple levels but the dance icon rocked the venue to its swanky foundations with a fresh setlist and sexy new look. Loving the green wig!

Luci kicked off the twenty-minute set with her epic Nari + Milani collaboration "I Got My Eye On You". The bone-shaking anthem is a favourite of mine and should have been the official follow-up to "I Like That". Next up was last year's surprise top 40 Australian hit "I'm Still Hot", which allowed the English dance deity to really camp it up on stage. Then came two new additions to Luciana's canon of club hits - forthcoming single "When It Feels This Good" and current UK club chart-topper "We Own The Night". Both songs are extraordinarily good. The former poptastic creation had the crowd singing along by the second verse (always a good sign), while her Tiesto/Wolfgang Gartner collaboration (below) is a stone cold smash. It's already shooting up UK iTunes and could be her biggest hit there in many years. Last but not least was the anthem that sparked Australia's love affair with Luciana. "I Like That" still goes harder than a motherfucker and gets even the drunkest bitches on their feet. She'll be back at The Ivy next Sunday, so make sure you check her out.