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Listen Now: Semi Precious Weapons Unveils New 'Aviation High' [Review]

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Five years ago, MTV Logo asked me to nominate artists for the "ArjanWrites.com Brink of Fame Award" at the inaugural NewNowNext Awards. I picked young up and comers Lady Gaga, Janelle Monae and Semi Precious Weapons who all went on to achieve big things following that year (little known fact: My nomination of Gaga let to her very first television appearance when she performed "Just Dance" at the telecast together with Space Cowboy).

Semi Precious Weapons ended up winning the "ArjanWrites.com Brink of Fame" award for "Magnetic Baby" with the support of their fans who voted en masse for them to grab the top prize. There was no love lost between old pals Gaga and Semi Precious Weapons who ended up collaborating together and the pop superstar even invited the group to join The Monster Ball World Tour as a special guest for a worldwide 18 month run. The group's profile skyrocketed in this period, leading to featured performances at Lollapalooza, The Isle of Wight festival, headlining the Colours of Ostrava festival and also opening for Ke$ha.

After 3 years on the road, the group of Justin Tranter, Cole Whittle, Dan Crean and Stevy Pyne found themselves in Los Angeles writing with none other than legendary producer Tricky Stewart who produced smash hits for artists like Beyonce ("Single Ladies"), Britney Spears ("Me Against The Music") and Rihanna ("Umbrella"). Semi Precious Weapons' powerful stage presence and songwriting savvy impressed Stewart who signed the foursome to his RedZone/Epic imprint after the group partered ways with Interscope.

The first result of their teaming is "Aviation High" that pushes Semi Precious Weapons' signature glam rock style into an exciting new direction. The masterfully-produced song is a slow-churning powerhouse that blends a thrusting groove, Tranter's brooding vocals and a soaring melodic chorus that's too irresistible to be denied. It's an appropriately epic love song that captures an inescapable melancholy with lyrics like, "Don't wake me up when you're leavin'/Cause I wanna keep on dreamin' of this." Highly recommended. Five out of five stars.

 Semi Precious Weapons "Aviation High" [MP3]

February 21, 2013 | Permalink

Interview: Ryan Tedder Talks about Inspired New OneRepublic Album

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When I last saw OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder he had just won a GRAMMY for his work on Adele's smash album "21" at the 54th GRAMMY Awards in 2012. Back then, he talked about some of his plans for the new year and recording a new OneRepublic album was on top of his list of thing to accomplish. In fact, he noted that the group really felt that the new LP they had just started work on could be their "big break out album."

During this year's GRAMMY Week, I caught up with Tedder at the annual Clive Davis Pre-GRAMMY Gala at the Beverly Hilton. I asked him how the new OneRepublic project was coming along a year after we last talked. He flashed a big smile and was happy to report that he had finished the album just days prior. "I handed in [the final record] 48 hours ago," he said. "I didn't sleep for 3 or 4 days but it was amazing. It's the best thing I've ever been attached to in my life so I hope it goes well. We worked on it off and on for 15 months. We finished it in New Orleans on Monday."

Produced in collobation with Jeff Bhasker, Philippe Zdar and Benny Blanco, OneRepublic's third studio album is titled "Native" and will be released on March 26. The LP includes the group's recent single "Feel Again" and their new EDM-tinged "If I Lose Myself" that is gaining chart momentum on both sides of the Atlantic. "We put it out in Europe first, three weeks ago, and it has been the fastest climbing song in the history of the band. So I'm crossing my fingers," Tedder smiled.

The GRAMMY winner noted that "If I Lose Myself" is "the most pop record on the album" that was directly inspired by Tedder's work with leading-edge EDM producers and his performance at the Coachella Music Festival last year. "We don't have a lot of EDM-flavored stuff on the record," he explains. "But I have been doing a lot of stuff with people like Zedd and Swedish House Mafia that has inspired me. I went to Coachella last year to perform with Sebastian Ingrosso and to watch Swedish House Mafia headline was so inspiring to me. I mean I had goosebumps for like an hour. So I wanted to write one song like that, but in a way that we still sound like a band."

He adds, "Our jobs as musicians is not only to reflect what we think and how we perceive the world, but also to reflect the world. A lot of our fans love EDM right now."

Tedder points out that "Native" spotlights a more raw and authentic vocal delivery. "It's the most intricate singing I've ever done on a record," Tedder explains. "For the first time, I sing the way I sing live or on demos I've recorded for songs I've pitched to other artists, whether that's Adele or Beyonce."

"For some reason, on OneRepublic albums, I've always tried to make my vocals sound neutered, more rock 'n roll or whatever, and now I'm like screw it, I'm just going to sing my ass off," Tedder says. "I'm singing from my gut like I've never done in my life."

Tedder sums up that "Native" is sonically very "organic" and an album "for humans by humans." He explains, "This is one of the albums that I really try to hit people in the gut with and connect with humanity. It's not just about having a good time, but I think these songs have lyrics that people are going to hear and hopefully resonate like nothing else." (Pre-order OneRepublic "Native" on iTunes now. Listen to a full preview of the record below.)

February 20, 2013 | Permalink

Listen: Active Child vs. Ellie Goulding 'Hanging On' (Betablock3r Remix)

Ellie Goulding 2013

Active Child's brilliant "Hanging On" received a mighty boost forward when Ellie Goulding covered the tune last year and added a dose of bittersweet melancholy to the song. Los Angeles producer Betablock3r decided to stir up the two and mash up Active Child's original with Ellie's revamp to create a mesmerizing break up ballad of the finest kind. It's an intensely atmospheric duet that takes on a whole new meaning with Pat and Ellie harmonizing lyrics like, "I just can't keep hanging on/To you and me/I just don't know what is wrong/With you and me." It's goosebump good. In related Ellie Goulding news, the British songstress wrapped her sold out U.S. tour last week with a massive show at Hollywood's Palladium. She will be heading to Europe and Asia next (and if you're in the U.K. make sure to check this out.)

February 19, 2013 | Permalink

Pop Newcomer Harry Hudson Premieres Debut Single 'World Is Gone' [Review]

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Newcomer Harry Hudson likes to describe his new single, "World Is Gone," as a "mixture of R&B and pop," which is a pretty good (and straightforward) way to sum up the song. The track also packs an infectious hook and a heartfelt sentiment that is sure to make your pop heart beat a little faster.

"World Is Gone" an earnest mid-tempo ballad that does an excellent job introducing this budding new talent to the world. Hudson says in a press release, "[The song] opens the door to what I'm doing. Lyrically, it's an eternal love story. Even though a girl might bail on you, you don't stop chasing her. The underdog does get the girl eventually."

It's a powerful and relatable message that puts the talented crooner in pole position for success. Over the last few months, buzz has steadily been building for Hudson who hails from Los Angeles and has worked feverishly to craft a potent sound of his own. The release of "World Is Gone" is a dream come true for the 19 year-old singer who discovered his love for music at a very young age.

Hudson found music almost as soon as he learned to talk, listening to Michael Jackson records constantly with his mother while growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles. In high school, music turned into a serious passion as he recorded demos with his friends, even squeezing into a bathroom in order to get the perfect echo on his laptop. After graduating high school, he made a songwriting pilgrimage for two months to Sweden and everything became clear.

Hudson explains, "That's when I realized I couldn't do anything else but music. I slept on the floor in a freezing cold studio for two months, but I began to really discover who I was as an artist. I came back and started going hard." The first result of his hard work is "World Is Gone" that neatly blends a gritty R&B groove with pop-savvy production stylings. Hudson particularly shines in the richly soulful chorus of "World Is Gone" that perfectly captures the essence of song - both lyrically and sonically.

February 18, 2013 | Permalink

Listen: V V Brown Unveils Brand-New Music for London Fashion Week

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It's been a hot minute since we last heard from V V Brown (over a year in fact), but after she shelved her second album and parted ways with EMI in 2011, the London singer is about to return independently with some brand-new music. Brown gave an eclectic audience of fans a taste of what's to come on Friday night when she kicked off London Fashion Week in in style at PPQ’s official after-show party at The Playboy Club in London's swanky Mayfair.

Performing an exclusive live set, Brown showcased a number of brand new tracks from her forthcoming, yet-to-be-titled new studio album, due for release later this year. Highlights on the set list included new tracks "Warrior," "Samson & Delilah" and "Shimmer." The tracks unveil V V's exciting new sonic direction with its electronic textures and lush, atmospheric grooves that take the singer's uplifting brand of pop slightly left-field into adventurous territory. It's too early to properly review her new music, but judging from the snippets she released this weekend, it sure sounds very, very promising. (Listen to tracks in the video player below.)

Expect much more V V news in the next few days. She will be reporting from the catwalks as the face of SBTV's Style Britain broadcasting to an audience of over 70 million viewers. While the latest in VV Vintage – an online sustainable fashion house founded and creatively directed by VV - will be showcased at London Fashion Weekend at Somerset House between February 21-24. Watch this space for more V V news soon.

February 18, 2013 | Permalink