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Bollywood Superstar Priyanka Chopra Teams with The Chainsmokers on 'Erase'

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While on a brief assignment in Mumbai and New Delhi this week, I've been absorbing a lot of the local music, food and culture. What has struck me is that Indians not only celebrate an incredibly rich, diverse and flourishing musical scene at home, they are also very in tune with what's happen musically elsewhere in the world, often brining up Western artists like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift in conversation. (One of the reasons for that is cable channel VH1 that has a presence in India and plays English-language music videos.)

Given all the talent and starpower in India, there's oddly only a small handful of Indian artists who celebrate success overseas. One of the most promising Indian superstars who has a firm shot at fame internationally is Bollywood actress Priynaka Chopra who released her debut single "In My City" late last year through UMG/Interscope/DesiHits Records.

Chopra is without a doubt one of the most recognizable Bollywood stars in India who also ventures out in music, television and charitable causes. She made her acting debut in 2002 when she appeared in the film Thamizan that impressed fans and critics alike. That appearance led to leading roles in a string of Bollywood box office smashers that garnered her not only millions of fans but also National Film Awards and Filmfare Awards in India. 

In early 2012, Priyanka teamed up with hit-making producer RedOne to collaborate on an English-language pop record. The first result of their collaborative effort is the single "In My City" that features some rhymes from will.i.am.(Check out this cool behind-the-scenes video of Priyanka signing her record deal at the UMG offices in Santa Monica, CA together with Jimmy Iovine, RedOne, will.i.am and Akon.)

After everything she has accomplished in India, releasing her music internationally is a dream come true for Chopra. "This is the culmination of a 2-year journey that has been the toughest yet most enriching experience of my life while also marking the beginning of an exciting new chapter," Priyanka Chopra explains in a press release. "I walked into this as a novice, with no training or experience of making music, and today, as I share my music with everyone. With the help and support of my family, an incredible team and the most talented music producers and songwriters, I am proud to present my first single ‘In My City’ to the US and subsequently the world."

Following the early success of "In My City," Chopra has also contributed vocals to "Erase," a progressive house ditty "for everyone with a broken heart" by up-and-coming dance-production outfit The Chainsmokers. The euphoric production is about to break into the Billboard Dance/Club Play chart and will surely give Chopra's budding music career another strong push forward. 

January 21, 2013 | Permalink

Kaskade Talks About New Music, Creative Process and His GRAMMY Nomination

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Songwriter/producer Kaskade (aka Ryan Reddon) is celebrating his very first (and long overdue) GRAMMY nomination this year. He is up in the Best Dance/Electronica Album category for "Fire & Ice," his most recent LP that was released in October 2011. Featuring collaborations with Skylar Grey, Haley, Neon Trees, Dan Black and Skrillex, the album is a bit of a concept album that includes two versions of each album track. The "Fire" disc contains ten original songs geared firmly toward the dance floor, while on the "Ice" disc (which is truly terrific), Kaskade delivers the perfect down-tempo post-club experience by remixing all ten songs.  

One of the things that gets too often overlooked is that Kaskade is not only an iconic DJ and producer, he's also a gifted melodymaker and lyricist who approaches all of his work as a songwriter first. With the explosion of new DJs, new tech and production tools in recent years, Kaskade is a true trailblazer who ruled the house scene long before the big American EDM revolution came along.

In a recent Q&A at The GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles, Kaskade spoke in-depth about his songwriting process and rise to fame. He spoke frankly about "Steppin' Out," one of his first hits that was an inspiration for  "Fire & Ice." "['Steppin' Out'] was a great dance track, but it seemed that people really connected to the lyrics and the melody," Kaskade told GRAMMY Museum director Bob Santelli. "I played the song and put it in my sets and I realized that the song is really something special. I've remixed it, changed the tempo and almost turned it into a ballad, I thought that was so much fun to do. It was a totally different take on the song and I realized I'd love to do for an album. Just look at each song in two different ways."

It turned out to be an eye-opening experience for the GRAMMY nominee. "The experience proved that it’s not about the style or production of the song, but it’s the actual song that people are connecting to," he explained. "People in electronic music, especially in its infancy, would always argue about all the different sub-genres, house and trance and techno, but let’s get over it – it’s about good music. If you write a good song it can be classified in so many different ways."

During the chat in the Clive Davis Auditorium at The GRAMMY Museum, Kaskade played snippets of some of his hits, plus he shared a very rough (and very promising) demo of a brand-new track on his laptop that had the sold out crowd excited.

Showcasing some new work brought up the question about his creative process and how he goes about validating new music. Kaskade explains, "Early on my career, new music didn't go far outside of the studio. I didn''t feel to have it validated by anyone else for whatever reason. When I first started writing music, it was for a very selfish reason. It was because I wanted to write and create."

He adds, "As I’ve gotten older and written more music, I play it for friends, but I feel if there’s too much outside influence it messes with my confidence. I know when a song is done when I sit down and it takes me to a place."

The 55th GRAMMY Awards will take place on February 10 at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Tune in to CBS or follow @TheGRAMMYs and @arjanwrites for live updates from the show.

January 20, 2013 | Permalink

Betablock3r Remixes Ellie Goulding's 'Anything Could Happen' [Interview]

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To celebrate the start of her U.S. tour in Miami on Wednesday, Ellie Goulding released an action-packed new "Anything Could Happen" EP this week that includes terrific remixes of the song by producers like Alex Metric, Flinch and Birdy Nam Nam. One of my favorite remixes on the EP is the remake of "Anything Could Happen" by Betablock3r who serve up a pop-savvy reinterpretation of the song filled with hyper-melodic vocal sampling and glossy synths that put a whole new spin on the original track.

Betablock3er is the Los Angeles based production duo of Chris Boulos and Ryan George. After recently revamping Cherry Cherry Boom Boom's "One & Only," the group was excited to take on "Anything Could Happen" next. "We've always been big fans of Ellie, Ryan and I remember hearing her live performance of 'Only Girl' on BBC Radio for the first time a few years back and being blown away," the two write me. "Needless to say it was a huge honor being featured on this remix album."

When crafting the remix, the group was very much inspired by Goulding's original material from the past. "We approached it as though we had a chance to write an original song from scratch while keeping the focus mainly on Ellie," they explain. "This wasn't too difficult as we've found that from a sonic stand point our sound or style seems to mesh particularly well with hers."

The duo adds, "This remix did seem to come together fairy quickly as we were fortunate to have such amazing vocals to work with, which in our opinion makes any remix considerably easier to work with. There were so many directions we could have gone with it so we determined the mood we wanted to set and just ran with it."

Betablock3r is currently working on remixes and original tracks "for other talented artist like Ellie." "We're currently working closely with Cherrytree Rcords which has been an amazing experience, so you can expect some collaborations with some great artists on their roster," they write. Boulos and George conclude, "But who knows... Anything Could Happen... See what we did there?" (Download Ellie Goulding's "Anything Could Happen" remix EP on iTunes.)

January 17, 2013 | Permalink

Casey Desmond Premieres Video for New Single 'Bad Habit'

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MTV Buzzworthy is right on the pulse with their premiere of Casey Desmond's new video for "Bad Habit" today. Most you will remember Desmond as one of the finalists on the very first season of NBC The Voice when she was part of team Adam and belted out a gut-wrenching rendition of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love." Last year, Desmond returned with brand-new original music on her album "Deja Vu." And boy, it sure has been worth the wait.

Desmond's new single "Bad Habit" prominently displays all of the colorful pop goodness that she's all about. Inspired by her love for everything '80s, her bold sense of fashion and powerful vocals, "Bad Habit" is a confident glam-pop track with that puts Desmond in a league of her own. The singer's obsession with glam should come not as a big surprise. She was the lead singer of a glam-rock band in high school before she moved to Boston to further pursue her passion for music.

In a recent interview with Truth of Sarah blog, Desmond talks a little bit more about the sonic direction of "Deja Vu. "[The album] is very dancey. There are a lot of tongue and cheek songs, with comical themes," she explains. "I write about love, sex, lust, and relationships a lot. I obtain a bunch of inspiration from these themes, and I'm a hopeless romantic." 

Taking cues from artists like Goldfrapp, LaRoux and Dragonette, Desmond adds that she is a huge lover of pop music and electronica. "No matter what instrument you put in front of me, I will try to write a pop song with it," she smiles. "Pop will always have a place in the music industry, however it evolves. I also really love synthesizers and pop music from the '80s. My musical style is based on years of writing what I'd consider poppy, hook filled songs, and endless nights with a synth and a bottle of wine. Electro pop and me are in bed together." (Download Casey Desmond "Bad Habit" on iTunes.)

January 16, 2013 | Permalink

Win Tickets to The 55th GRAMMY Awards on February 10 in Los Angeles!

The Recording Academy reached a huge milestone last week when their Google+ Page hit over one million followers. To celebrate and show their appreciation, The GRAMMYs want to give away a pair of tickets and a two night hotel stay to the 55th GRAMMY Awards on February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles! This is a fantastic and rare opportunity to be part of the biggest night in music and to see all of your favorite artists upclose in one, single room to mingle and perform. 

I recorded a little video last week at The Recording Academy offices to explain briefly how you can have a chance to win. It's simple: Create a video of what your acceptance speech would be if you won a GRAMMY, who would you thank?! The video should be no longer than 90 seconds. Post your video on your Google+ page with the hashtag #TheWorldIsListening and you will be entered! Be creative and show us what you got!

The contest ends on January 28th and the winner will be announced on January 29th! Join and participate. Follow Arjan Writes and The GRAMMYs on Google+. (Official contest rules here)

January 16, 2013 | Permalink