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Kylie's Synth Sensation

Kylie Minogue is set to release "Slow," the first single from her upcoming album "Body Language." The single will drop in the UK on November 3 and Kylie's ninth studio album will follow two weeks later. "Slow" is a minimalist synth ballad with the sexy songstress crooning about new-found love.

Now that Kylie has become a true global brand, the expectations for this new single are high. "Slow" has received very mixed reviews and the song has been criticized for its lack of substance. In all fairness, it needs to be noted that Kylie has never been about substance. Kylie makes pop and her past efforts prove that she knows how to craft it.

Point in case is the new video for "Slow", which is an ode to French actress and fifties sex symbol Brigitte Bardot. Minogue is surrounded by bronzed, chiseled male bodies on a sundeck that does not leave much to the imagination.

"Body Language" will hit stores in the US early 2004.

October 31, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (4)

"I'm just a polyamorous, water-based carbon life form"

Singer Me’shell Ndegéocello releases speaks with Arjan about love, sexuality, politics and her new album.

You don’t have to be a Billboard-topping recording artist to gain respect from peers, critics and the music industry. Me’shell Ndegéocello has made music for over 15 years that has not always been a critical success.

This uncompromising singer and skilled bassist has continued to receive critical-acclaim for her innovative, genre-busting music.The bisexual singer has inspired many young artists and paved the way for the neo-soul movement that includes artists like D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Maxwell, and newcomers Jill Scott, Bilal and Indie.Arie.

On her latest record "Comfort Woman," Ndegéocello shows off her sensual side with lyrics about love, sex and religion. Her socially conscious songs imply that revolution starts in the bedroom.

Born in the late 1960s in Berlin, Ndegéocello grew up in Washington, D.C. She started playing the club scene in the late ‘80s with Little Bennie and the Masters, and Rare Essence.

As a young artist, she was mentored by Prince and signed to Madonna’s Maverick label, which gave her plenty of creative freedom. In 1993, her debut “Plantation Lullaby,” was applauded by critics and received four Grammy nominations. The album was followed by “Peace Beyond Passion,” “Bitter” and “Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape.”

From her home in Brooklyn, Ndegéocello tells Arjan, “I am excited about this album.” It is a radical departure from her previous hip-hop infused “Cookie,” an uncompromising look at love, sex, race and politics. It shows a gentler Ndegéocello, with love songs and musical arrangements from ‘60s psychedelic jazz, to reggae and down-home soul.

The soft-spoken Ndegéocello said, “I can’t really explain how I came up with the idea for this album. I guess I was inspired by love for life and love for a person when I wrote this album.”

One of the most outspoken songs on the album is “Fellowship,” a look at the dangers of religion, with the lyrics, “Would you walk a righteous path without the promise of heaven, paradise streets paved in gold?”

Ndegéocello feels that song is particularly relevant in light of the current political turmoil after the war in Iraq. “Our leaders and Osama Bin Laden all claim to do the right thing in the name of God. I question that. I wonder if that God is worth the life of another human-being.”

Ndegéocello finds it important to create at any given point in her career, and draws comparisons with visual artists. “A person I admire is Picasso. He was able in all stages of his life to continue to create,” she says. “If I would not be able to create music, I would create art or something else. Perhaps cooking.”

Proof of Ndegéocello’s diverse musical interests are a number of recent side projects. She collaborated on the debut album of New York-based Cuban hip-hop band Yerba Buena, and covered a song for a new Dolly Parton tribute CD.

“I performed a song called ‘Two Doors Down.’ I like Dolly Parton a lot,” she says. “I think she is an amazing lyricist and songwriter. She asked me personally and I was more than happy to participate.”

In January, she will also be releasing “Papillon,” a jazz record with singers Lalah Hathaway and Cassandra Wilson. “It is mostly an instrumental, meditative record with a few guest vocalists.”

She enjoys different types of music and doesn’t want to be niched in one style. “I have listened to and played a lot of different styles of music. I guess that experience finds a way out in the diversity of my music.

Ndegéocello, which means “free like a bird” in Swahili, does not feel her genre-crossing music-making equals experimentation for its own sake. “It is all music to me,” she says. “No matter what musical type, it has the same DNA, it is all 12 notes in a scale. I just change the combinations a bit now and then.”

Ndegéocello is considered by some one of the few gay icons in music. She smiles at the notion and openly wonders if she considers herself gay. “There is not really a word to describe my sexuality,” she says.

She smiles, “I am just a polyamorous, water-based carbon life form. I find myself being able to enjoy sex with both sexes, I am able to fall in love with both sexes and I love animals.”

She admits that her gay fans are very important to her, but she does not want to be stereotyped as a gay artist. “My music is for everybody that it speaks to. I don’t like to be compartmentalized. I am just thankful, whoever likes the music.”

"Comfort Woman" is in stores now.

October 29, 2003 in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (1)

Duran Duran Plans Comeback with Tour and New Album

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Duran Duran has reunited with all of its five original members: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor. The '80s pop idols made their first public appearance when they received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards last August.

More than 25 years after their formation, the band is ready for a serious comeback with a new album and a world tour that will take them across Europe, Asia and the United States.

Duran Duran became a household name with its fusion of pop art, experimental music videos, eclectic pop music and spunky looks. The group ended up selling more than 70 million records over the last 20 years.

Since deciding to get back together, the band have spent time writing in both the South of France and London, where they have recently built a small demo space from which to work. By the late Fall, time will have been scheduled for recording in either in the UK or US with one of a short-list of producers that they are currently meeting with.

Question is if a group with such a huge reputation can live up to the expectations. Some wonder if the group will solely rely on their old bag of tricks or might in fact create a new-millenium vibe that can compete with the sounds of today.

If anything, Duran Duran's revival might make a nostalig night out when they hit a city near you this November. A list of tourdates and cities can be found on Ticketmaster.

Duran Duran will be performing:

Friends Of Mine
Hungry Like The Wolf
Planet Earth
Come Undone
What Happens Tommorrow
New Religion
Virus
Is There Something I Should Know
Waiting For The Night Boat
Ordinary World
Save A Prayer
Reach Up For The Sunrise
Notorious
Wild Boys
Careless Memories
Rio

Encore:
White Lines
Girls On Film

October 23, 2003 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (1)

Furtado to Release "Folklore"

This week, some members of the music press received a CD sampler of Nelly Furtado's new album "Folkore." The teaser includes snippets of four new Furtado songs, including "Fresh Off The Boat," "Explode" and the ballad "Try." Also featured is the new single "Powerless (Say What You Want)," which is currently storming up the iTunes chart.

Click here for an exclusive e-card of her newest single "Powerless."

Taken solely from the short sound fragments, "Folklore" seems to reveal a more mature Furtado with a musical production that combines her cheer, outright emotion and spirited crooning.

"Fresh Off The Boat" is a fun dance jive that has Furtado singing about being humble as an immigrant. The singer captures unbridled emotion on the epic love ballad "Try," which only features the chorus twice and has an improvisational ending. Based on her poem "Teenage Waste," the pop-rock song "Explode" includes terms from Capoeira, the Brazilian martial arts form, to express feelings of angst and agression.

The disc was produced by Track & Field Productions and Furtado.

In an interview, Furtado confides that her new record is inspired by culture, love, fresh energy and other sentiments often associated with folk music. "Every nation, and every country has its own version of folk music," says the Azores-born singer. "[Folk music] is the idea of somebody picking up a guitar and singing about what's around them."

"What you get is something very raw and real."

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The sampler also includes a 16-minute spoof that has Furtado (a.k.a. Smelly Dorito) play Frederica, a ditsy reporter of "Folklorica FM." While introducing new Furtado songs, Frederica interviews other pop celebrities on an imaginary red carpet. Furtado hilariously imitates the voices of Britney Spears, Shakira ("Chakra"), Avril Lavigne, Erika Baduh and Bjork.

While waiting for the entire version of "Folklore to hit store shelves, Furtado's marketing folks deserve kudos for their original way of creating initial excitement.

"Folklore" will hit stores on November 25th.

October 21, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (14)

DJ Alyson Calagna Loves Her Tribal

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Last month, Centaur Music released the addition "A Weekend In Oz" to the highly acclaimed Party Groove dance series. The dance remix CD was put together by young, up-and-coming DJ Alyson Calagna.

Miami based DJ/producer Calagna was first exposed to house music as a child in Aberdeen, Scotland. At the age of sixteen, while living in Louisiana, Alyson found a natural calling to the turntables, which led to her first residency. Currently, she is travelling the country spinning her fierce tribal beats.

How did you get your start as a DJ?
Eleven years ago, I was dancing at a teen club and a good friend of mine was the DJ. He showed me what he was doing and how he was spinning the music. I really got a taste for it then and I have been hooked ever since.

How do you describe your spinning style?
I play mostly house music. I like the whole spectrum from deep sexy sultry house to progressive beats. The only thing you know that you will always get with me is percussion. Lots of it! This girl loves her tribal!

What do you feel makes you unique?
I am not really sure. I believe every DJ has their their own signature style. I can't really pinpoint what makes me unique. Somebody else should comment on that.

What is your secret to getting a crowd moving and excited?
Now, if I told you, it wouldn't be a secret anymore!

How do you prepare for a DJ gig?
I listen to a lot of old and new music that I have. I try and play new vibes at home a couple of times a week. I have to be careful not to overprepare, because then I loose my intuition for the music. Overall, if my energy is good and my spirits are up, the rest just flows automatically.



How do you like playing gay circuit parties? Do the gay boys treat you well?
I love playing for all kinds of crowds. Making people dance is my passion. Circuit parties are a blast. I used to play at raves and circuit parties are basically gay raves with a much better production. The boys are great. They treat me like a lady. They are very appreciative of good house music. I love that about them.

How was it to create the latest Party Groove CD?
It was great! I have worked with Centaur before so it was nice to work with them again.

What vibe did you want to convey on the CD?
I chose to remix more vocal tracks for the CD, because I wanted to convey the mood of a closing party. I still threw in some percussion on a few of the tracks. I am very excited about the final result.

What are some of your favorite tracks?
I would have to say I love the tribal tracks the most, of course. DJ Fist's "El Pajaro" and Echoes From Doruma's "Chus & Ceballos." Both have amazing percussion and they are songs that just make me feel good.

What DJs do you feel most related to?
There are a lot of DJs that I feel that I can flow with. One of them would be DJ Paolo -- he is my tribal husband.

What DJs have inspired you?
Do you have all day? I can name hundreds. The first inspiration would be the Tunz crew back in Lafayette, Louisiana. Then once I started to spin house, Danny T. because of the deep tribal. Junior Vasquez because of his technical skills, Abel because of his Cha Cha. I could go on and on forever .

What music genre would you never include in a set?
In a dance music setting, I really don't like trance. I'm not saying it's bad or anything. It just doesn't fit in my groove.

What is in your opinion the future of club music?
I can only say what I hope for. I hope house gets housier. Good vocal house that has lyrics with a message or a meaning. Not just another remixed pop song. I want sexy soulful tribal music!

Please find Alyson's playdates on her web site http://www.djalysoncalagna.com/

Publicity photo by Dale Stine.

October 19, 2003 in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (3)