Beyonce, Katy, and watzisname — Zameer?

ZameerHello People,

What do Celine Dion, Nelly Furtado, Justin Bieber all have in common?  And what do all of them have in common with Zameer?  Chances are you’re scratching your heads.  Well, the answer to both questions is ‘Canada’.  Dion, Furtado, and the Bieb are big names in the United States from ‘north of the border’ and if Billboard is correct, fellow Canadian Zameer soon will be joining them on the charts.  He is Billboard’s ‘fastest growing artist on social media.’

Zameer is not exactly a newcomer; he has one hit single, ‘Win or Defeat’, to his credit and is about to release his second album.  And it was way back in 2006 that the Toronto Independent Music Awards heralded him as its ‘Best Independent Artist’.  So remember, you heard it here first: Zameer!

Unlike Zameer, singer Beyonce and former singing Spice Girl Victoria Adams (Beckham) are both huge names, and one made the other ‘scream’ – and it wasn’t about music.  Beyonce was doing Manhattan in a sizzling pink blouse over a multicoloured maxi skirt when fashion designer Victoria got her screaming fit.  Turns out she was excited because Beyonce, whom she called “one hot mama,” was wearing one of her outfits!

From pink to blue: Katy Perry.  Katy is also rather better known than Zameer but man-hating feminazi Naomi ‘Beauty is a Myth’ Wolf wants us to “boycott this singer” (sic).  Perry’s music-video for ‘Part of Me’ gave Wolf the fits because Perry makes out like a marine in the video, causing Wolf to shoot off some PC gibberish, like “glorification of violence.”  Perry responded with a semi-intelligible mishmash of politically-correct buzzwords of her own, like “people’s wellness is way low.”  Yup, playing marines will definitely ‘up’ “people’s wellness,” Katy.

TGIF and I’m off to validate Naomi Wolf’s ‘beauty is a myth’ scriptural axiom by heading for Cabaret Royale off Stemmons . . . see you there,

Shane

A movie, a Musical, and . . . a Mixture

The Hunger GamesHowdy Folks,

Well, if yesterday’s post was a medley, today’s is a veritable mixture!

You’ve heard of (and probably seen) ‘The Hunger Games’ – it’s one of those movies that just catches the public’s fancy and doesn’t let go.  That record-setting movie has pulled its soundtrack right to the top of Billboard’s Album Charts.  One Direction’s ‘Up All Night’ has been bumped down three places while Adele’s ’21′ is showing real staying power, holding steady at no. 2.  And Whitney’s Greatest Hits is, incredibly, still in the Top Ten.

From movies to musicals.  Would you believe that British singer Susan Boyle now has a musical – no, she’s not playing in it; the musical’s about her!  Boyle is one of those near-unique female singers: one who has neither age nor looks on her side, a shortcoming that is more than made up for by talent and a powerful voice.  Elaine Smith, the actress who plays Boyle in the musical, hit the nail right on the head: “[To be a successful female singer] you had to be tall, thin, blonde, gorgeous, and talent didn’t matter any more, and I think for all of us, myself included, when you see Susan it was about judging a book by its cover.  And it made us all sit back and say ‘Oh wait a minute, talent matters’.”  The musical traces the rags to riches trajectory of the formerly unknown singer.  It has premiered in Newcastle and has been very well received.

A couple of days back I had blogged about Aerosmith and their upcoming swing through North America.  Now the band’s announced a new album; their first in eight years.  It’s scheduled for summer release to coincide with their ‘Global Warming’ tour.  So what do you think – will it get on Billboard’s Top Ten?  Steven Tyler said it’s going to be a “little bit of 1975.”  Calling Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin . . .

As long as we’re talking about 1975, we should extend a ‘Get Well Soon’ to a mid-seventies star: Robin Gibb.  Gibb, who’s been battling cancer has had surgery and is in hospital.  Here’s wishing he’s back on stage or in the studios very soon!

Bye,

Shane

Midweek Medley with Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie“Hello,” did you stumble across this by chance, or was “it me you’re looking for?”

It’s midweek, and it’s another medley: Mad-onna, Gaga, and Lionel Richie on the menu.

Remember, you heard it here first!  A week or two back didn’t I give the thumbs down to Mad-onna, our ‘Granny Gone Wild’, didn’t I predict that ‘MDNA’ was same ole, same ole, and didn’t I question Billboard’s integrity in pushing it?  Well, here are some choice quotes from Yahoo Music News about ‘MDNA’:–

“. . . some music critics haven’t exactly been blown away despite Madonna recruiting a bevy of top dance music producers . . . . Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times gave the album two out of four stars, saying it doesn’t ‘offer much in the way of innovation,’ and that the iconic singer had ‘fallen behind’ . . . . Alexis Petridis of British newspaper The Guardian, gave the album three out of five stars, calling it ‘business as usual’ for the pop star. . . . Nitsuh Abebe of New York Magazine said ‘a lot of the music here feels hollow and strained’ . . . .”

You see, very little about Mad-onna was ever about music; much of it was about sexual self-exploitation, razzle-dazzle, sensationalism and controversy, and now, finally, it looks like a few people are catching on to it.

Another artiste who gets 9/10 on sensationalism and controversy is Lady Gaga!  But she’s got freshness and new ideas on her side.  And we can hardly be hard on her today because . . . it’s her birthday!  Anyone up for singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to birthday girl?  Considering that half-a-century back the bleach-blonde icon of that age famously sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to the then-president (Marilyn Monroe to JFK), could a long-overdue favour be returned?  Perhaps musical Prez Barrack Obama will sing Happy Birthday to the Gaga One!

And now to Tuskegee.  “What’s ‘Tuskegee’?” you ask.  We know it’s a town but what’s it to this blog?  The name of Lionel Richie’s new album, that’s what.  So now you ask, “Why ‘Tuskegee’?”  That’s because the smooth R&B stylist of the 80s is paying homage to his childhood hometown and is marking the genre of his album – Country.  Lionel Richie, not exactly new to country, has collaborated with several country stars on his old songs (including a few classics).  Duets on ‘Hello’, ‘Endless Love’, and ‘Sail On’ with singers like Shania Twain, Willie Nelson and Kenny Chesney promise to be a tasty treat that a large cross-section of music-lovers may groove to . . . groove to ‘all night long’ . . . .

Yours “Truly”, Yours “Forever”,

Shane

Les Paul leads the Music-Men

Howdy Folks,

In yesterday’s blog, just 24 hours back, I wrote: “Come on music-biz men – don’t be so staid.  Make some news else it’ll be Ladies Night at the Lyrster Monday through Friday!”  Ask, and ye shall receive – so The Good Book tells us – and I have received!  And today we have a legendary rock band, an equally legendary bad boy, and a truly legendary, pioneering past master of the electric guitar.

If you’re in the States and you like Aerosmith, you’re probably drooling after hearing yesterday afternoon’s announcement.  Come June, the 70s rock band will take off on a swing through eighteen cities (mostly in the U.S.) on a continuation of their ‘Global Warming’ Tour after ‘doing’ Japan and South America.  Rooted in the hippy movement, Aerosmith was one of the bands that originated and defined what came to be known as ‘Heavy Metal’, going on to win grammies and international recognition. It may seem like only yesterday to many but lead man Steven Tyler is in his mid-sixties and does double-duty as a venerable and respected judge – on ‘American Idol’!

The late Whitney Houston once lambasted the establishment for having different standards for her then-husband, Bobby Brown, explaining that that was because he was “a b. b. man.”  Well, that “b. b. man” has gone and done it again: got himself into trouble.  For those who don’t know, Bobby Brown is a potent singer in his own right and he was arrested yesterday in California.  A police officer saw him using a mobile-phone while driving and pulled him over.  Thinking that Brown looked soaked, the officer asked him to take an on-the-spot sobriety test, which Brown flunked.  He was arrested on DUI charges and taken to the lockup, from where he was released without bail.

It is equal parts obligatory as it is necessary as it is trite for guitarists to pay homage to and say “I’m Confessin” to influence from Les Paul, who passed away in 2009. I don’t know if Steven Tyler and his bandmates have done so but odds on, one of them has.  As it happens, only a month or two back, while listening to SKY.FM’s Classical & Flamenco Guitar Channel, I casually started a Top Ten Guitarists list.  Les Paul was and is near the top of my list.

A successive hitmaker on Capitol throughout the 50s with Mary Ford, Paul was an experimenter and pioneer on both, the electric guitar and recording techniques.  He shaped modern recording techniques actually, even inventing multi-tracking, reverb, and overdubbing consoles and equipment, not to mention developing his own line of guitars.  Most of his guitar-playing from over half-a-century back is more musical, evocative and thrilling even today than that of other guitarists.  He played some unbelievable licks; you gotta listen to them.  Yesterday, Julien’s Auctions announced an auction of some of Les Paul’s possessions to be held in June, prior to which, the first week of June is set aside for a free exhibition of the legend’s treasures.  Lots include vintage Gibson guitars, an autographed Fender, a Steinway Piano, and Ampex recording machine, with all proceeds going to the Les Paul Foundation.

‘Vaya Con Dios’,

Shane

Birthday Bashes, Gypsy Earrings, and Sex Scandals

Aretha FranklinHello out there,

It’s only Monday but it’s Ladies Night at the Lyrster already!  That’s because the ladies are the ones making the news, and today we have a venerable legend, a low-profile hitmaker, and a rank unknown!

The venerable legend is Aretha ‘Queen of Soul’ Franklin.  She has made a dual news splash.  First, she hit three-score-and-ten and is still going strong – so strong that she will soon make a new album!  Franklin had a posh 70th birthday party on Saturday at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel, replete with banquet, dance performance and a short concert.  In attendance was her mentor, Clive Davis.  Though the album is not concretized, it appears to be nailed on that Franklin, with Davis as producer, will be getting into the studios this year and will put out an LP – oops, that’s what they used to put out in Aretha’s glory years; now it’s just an ‘album’, usually digital.  (That said, perhaps some of my readers have heard that vinyl is refusing to die?)

It’s not exactly news that Canadian chanteuse Nelly Furtado, who keeps a low profile and doesn’t get up to Mad-onna- or Rihanna-style antics, has an album, ‘T.S.I.’, slated for summer release.  But whenever this old-fashioned gal comes out of her shell, it’s news!  And she created news on Saturday by informing that her upcoming single is all about ‘Big Hoops (Bigger The Better).’  (It’s probably about Maria Sharapova’s taste in earrings – gypsy earrings.)  What’s more, she gave an interview with what seems like a deliberately, somewhat mischievously, goofy beginning!  Given the kind of sensationalism many of her female peers indulge in, it’s worth listening to Nelly’s smart and articulate two-minute chat.

Talk about ‘sensationalism’ – that segues us very well into our rank unknown, one Tulisa someone (does anyone care who?).  This aspiring singer, even before releasing a single track, has become the victim of a sex scandal . . . or, hmm, the cause and the beneficiary of the sex scandal, perhaps?  Her single, officially due out in May, is all about making youthful mistakes – and there we have the young lady making a youthful mistake by participating in raunch sex videos which somehow find their way on the Web.  Oh yes, her lawyers have obtained an injunction against the video being posted on the Web so now, foom!– the sex video is suddenly gone from the Web.  I’ll take news Aretha-style and Nelly-style any day.

Come on music-biz men – don’t be so staid.  Make some news else it’ll be Ladies Night at the Lyrster Monday through Friday!

Cheerio,

Shane

Adele, Kelly or Katy?

AdeleHallo All!

The Adele train goes chugging on and on and the latest stop was Germany at the country’s ECHO awards.  Adele collected two awards, including Album of the Year for ’21′.  In doing so she beat out none other than Lady Gaga – not exactly an upset but, still, an against-the-odds win on the Continent.  Bruno Mars goes from strength to strength; he picked up Best International Male Artist.  Coldplay was the other big name to scoop an award; the band won Best International Group.

Rewind forty years – two generations – back for that era’s Adele and you find her in Carole King, whose ’21′ was ‘Tapestry’.  That album rode atop Billboard’s album chart for nearly four months!  Similar to Adele in our time, King enjoyed chart successes, collected numerous awards, and now is in line to collect another: a lifetime achievement award from BMI, their ‘Icon Award’.  It will be presented to King with the usual razzmatazz at a luxe event at the Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles in May.  Carole King was also an accomplished songwriter before she hit her stride in her singing career.  There’s a connection here with a worldwide pop hit by Neil Sedaka but I suppose all my readers are too young to know or care . . .

Billboard’s Hot 100′s Top Ten shows remarkably little movement this week: total movement or shift in the Top Ten is only ten places with four singles holding from the previous week.  One of these (at no. 2) is Kelly Carkson’s ‘Stronger’.  Another one that’s held (no. 5) is ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ by Gotye feat. Kimbra – and there’s a connection with the German ECHO awards: this song won Hit of the Year.  The Top Ten also has another such connection!  A third single that has held (no. 10) is ‘Part of Me’ by blue-haired Katy Perry – and she was present at the ECHO awards to sing (and scream and moan) her hit!

Well lads, Thank God It’s Friday – as we’ll have Happy Hour, name yer poison: Adele, Kelly or Katy?  Or does your taste run to other treats?

TGIF,

Shane

Offbeat and up-and-comers day!

Hello Music Hounds,

Let’s get offbeat and up-and-coming today, shall we?

First to the offbeat.  Idolator published a pair of funny photos side by side; we have a pair of blue- and green-haired punks.    Katy Perry was at a Paris studio session, haired dyed deep blue.  And Nicki Minaj arrived in Narita, Japan, hair a vivid shade of green!  (Okay, it was a green wig, and I suppose Katy and Nicki’s unusual hair colours aren’t exactly ‘news’.)  What made Katy blue and what made Nicki envious, we don’t yet know.

Anyway, I’m sure these fashion statements are the cue for Taylor Swift to dye her hair purple.  Now that would be news but I do think it ain’t gonna happen until hell freezes over!  All these fancy hair colours make one wish for the simple days of Debbie ‘Blondie’ Harry and nothing fancier than bleach and peroxide!  (And that was a gal who really could sing.)

Elliott Yamin is a lesser-known name than he should be.  In his catchy new single “Gather ‘Round,” he says he’s singing in a “Brand New Groove.”  Hmm, it’s a kinda Stevie Wonder groove, Elliott!  What’s more the soul-inflected singing is also reminiscent of Stevie.  And I mean that as a huuuge compliment.  Anyway that’s real singing from an artiste with some musical promise.

Train’s ‘Drive By’ is in an altogether different groove from Elliott Yamin’s new release but similar to it in being refreshingly musical and rhythmic, and with clean acoustic sounds.  Train have released a fancy-dance video on the making of their music-video, featuring a California vineyard and badass cars. Actually, the music is good enough to stand on its own without any upmarket ‘making of’ video!

Am I the only one seeing a trend?  The sexes in music – excluding the few exceptions that ‘prove the rule’ – have fallen into two distinctly different ‘grooves’.  A lot of near-established female singers (e.g. Perry and Minaj) can’t seem to hold their own musically and vocally, and have to rely on heavy synthesization and in-studio over-production (Mad-onna started the trend, of course).  However, the lads (e.g. Yamin and Train) seem to display genuine musical talent and can actually sing, and carry themselves without the excess of synthesization and in-studio over-production.

It’s a pity Corinne Drewery was never appreciated in America . . . I bet none of my readers have even heard of her!

Bye Y’all,

Shane

Americans are of one mind on ‘One Direction’

One DirectionHiya All,

Only a couple of weeks back I had asked whether Adele and a couple of other artistes heralded a new ‘British Invasion’ – call it ‘British Invasion Part 2′.  The answer is in the affirmative and it’s official, thanks to ‘One Direction’.

This British boy band, already popular in the U.S., has just rocketed to the Billboard 200 chart’s peak.  Prior honours include third place in The X Factor in 2010 and keeping Adele company at the Brit Awards last month by picking up one of their own (Best British Single).

Just as for Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, and others (American Idol), some share of the credit goes to Simon Cowell for spotting the band-members’ talents by way of the British equivalent of American Idol, The X Factor.  Cowell advised the five teenagers to, instead of continuing as solo acts, form a band.  The rest is, quite literally, (chart) history because One Direction is the first British band to land their debut album (‘Up All Night’) on the top of Billboard 200.  This is a feat that neither Herman’s Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Animals, The Monkees, nor even The Beatles accomplished.

The boys sure know to strike while the iron’s hot. Emboldened by their rapturous reception on NBC’s ‘Today’ show, they have announced a coast-to-coast tour in the United States – twenty shows in as many cities from New York to Phoenix to Orlando, with more to be announced!  Americans are evidently of one mind on ‘One Direction’.  Take a bow, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson!

Other chart news seems to indicate that price matters: if it’s nearly-free, tens of thousand will want to buy it.  The proof is Guns ‘n’ Roses’s ‘Greatest Hits’ which jumped 28 places from 31 to 3 after the album was priced at a quarter for only one day.  The Boss’s ‘Wrecking Ball’, however, fell three places to no. 4.  That said, this is an album with near universal appeal and holds top or or close-to-top positions in charts around the world.  And, after a couple of months of Whitney’s passing, it’s pertinent to mention that her ‘Greatest Hits’ album still remains in the Top Ten!

But everything said and considered, honours of the week to One Direction.  Eng-errrland!

Ta-ta,

Shane

A mother, a woman, a girl, and a [deleted by ISP censor]

BeyonceHello Men,

Take a back seat: for Ladies Night at the Lyrster is a day early this week.  We’ll look at a mother, a woman, a girl, and a [deleted by ISP censor].

Two chanteuses of rather different musical persuasions have made news splashes for exactly the same dual reasons: new album and a series of shows.  Hello Mama Beyonce and Woman Nicki Minaj.

Beyonce, the mother, is apparently devouring a host of ideas from which to choose her upcoming album, which is in its incipient stages.  What’s a done deal is the shows.  Beyonce will be one of the performers to inaugurate the new Revel Entertainment Center in Atlantic City.  She will give three concerts during the end of May at the Revel’s Ovation Hall with its ‘immersive sound’.  Tickets on sale in April.  Do you have the dough and the luck to score them?

The woman Nicki Minaj’s new album is in a much more advanced stage.  The tracks for ‘Roman Reloaded’ were just revealed.  It has something in common with her debut album ‘Punk Friday’ – oops, I meant ‘*Pink* Friday’! – many tracks are duets and feature guest artistes.  One of them is Chris Brown.  One way or another, Nicki’s face may suffer: either Chris Brown may punch her in the nose or Rihanna may scratch her eyes out.  Minaj’s European fans have something to celebrate: between 8th June and 19th August she’s hitting thirteen cities in nine countries.

Next to the girl, Carly Rae Jepsen.  Carly Who?  Cue Justin Bieber.  Bieber and friends made a video on a track she had recorded; as a consequence, Carly Rae found fifteen minutes of fame.  Now, she and Bieber have had a work date and may rustle up a collaboration for her next album.

In an earlier post I slammed [deleted by ISP censor] Mad-onna’s album ‘MDNA’ as being the same ole, same ole tired stuff (which means a C- grade).  Turns out that the so-called ‘deluxe edition’ of that album has a track titled ‘I F—d Up’.  So the lapsed Catholic has recorded a confessional song!  Finally she’s got it.  Let’s all sing in chorus: “Yes, Mad-onna, you f—d up, yes you have – big time!”

Take it easy,

Shane

About Music (SXSW) and ‘Non-Music’ (Rihanna)

Norah JonesHello Music-Lovers,

The SXSW Music Festival closed out with a bang on Saturday, when festivities included a documentary, “Big Easy Express.”  One of the performers covered by the documentary nearly stole the show on the final day – The Austin High Band!  Their live performance at an outdoor venue was very well received and prompted Marcus Mumford, fresh from his gig at the White House lawn, to fete the high school children’s music as being “real music from real people.”  Well done to the high school musicians but where does that leave the other performances and performers – fake music from fake people?

Other performers like Norah Jones, who debuted her upcoming album, ‘Little Broken Hearts’ live.  The intimate and highly personal set was quite a change from her jazz and blues sounds and image.  Paradoxically, one thing that hasn’t changed is Norah’s, ah, ‘image’ – if you know what I mean!  I’m sure her live concerts are worth attending for more than one reason.

Those ‘other performers’ also included ‘gangsta rappers’ and hip hop types 50 Cent and Eminem.  The twosome apparently did a duet that sent their masochistic audience into raptures.  Aha!— I’ve figured it out: when Mumford came up with his “real music from real people” line, he was drawing a comparison with the likes of 50 Cent and Eminem . . .

We’ll close with a singer who makes more news (if you want to call it ‘news’) that’s not about singing than it is about singing.  Even an international news agency like Reuters is now acting like a tabloid rag where Rihanna’s antics are concerned.  It is solemnly reporting on fans’ and critics’ reactions to her going back to the abusive arms of her ex-boyfriend, Chris Brown.  On the one hand, it is said that the relationship is strictly business.  On the other, it said that is a little more than merely business.  Some are voting for Rihanna to give him another chance.  Many are voting for her to permanently boot him out of her life.  Is there a vote for “Who gives two hoots?” or “Let’s boot this nonsense off the news pages”?

Cheerio,

Shane