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A Few Words about Last Night's 2013 MTV Video Music Awards

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Wow. The annual MTV Video Music Awards gives us plenty to talk about at the (virtual) watercooler this morning. I'm going to ignore one painful moment that everyone is buzzing about (think twerk) for now and go straight to Justin Timberlake who delivered by far one the best performances of the night. With a soaring medley of some of his greatest hits, Timberlake reminded us exactly why he more than deserves the title of president of pop. True to form, the pop superstar gave credit where credit is due and invited his pals of *NSYNC to perform briefly with him to acknowledge the group that got him started. Timberlake is a true class act and always joy to watch.

Another highlight of the night was Bruno Mars and his sizzling performance of his new single "Gorilla." When Bruno sings everything is right in the world. He can do no wrong and this VMA performance was solid proof of that. His vocals were on point and his showmanship shined. Bruno is the future.

Katy Perry created an iconic VMA moment with her performance of "Roar" along the Brooklyn Bridge with the glittery Manhattan skyline in the background. Dressed in a tiger print sports bra and boxer shorts, Perry gave proper meaning to the song's lyrics when she jumped ropes in a boxer ring stage and sang, "I've got the eye of the tiger and I'm ready to roar!" Everybody heard her loud and clear, even Oprah Winfrey (!) and President Obama (!!) who tweeted Perry after she closed the VMAs.

Lady Gaga probably broke the record for most outfit changes in a single song. Impressive. This month her debut LP The Fame turns five years old and Gaga took advantage of the VMA spotlight to highlight some of her favorite looks. I literally shrieked when she came out swinging in her blue glittery short-dress with high shoulder pads during the chorus of "Applause. I felt the pulse, the excitement, and it reminded me of the "Just Dance" era that I cherish so much.

One of the VMAs most revealing moments were broadcast on the "all-access" uStream that MTV had made available. It showed live footage of the backstage area, press room and the VIP section where most celebrities were watching the show. It showed Lady Gaga comfortably sitting in her shell bikini outfit constantly fluffing her hair all night long. She was only seated 5 chairs from Taylor Swift and her BFF Selena Gomez.

Rihanna was sitting one row over from Swift together with a friend right in front of the lads from One Direction who kept walking in and out of the area. At one point, during Justin Timberlake's performance I also saw Ellie Goulding in the VIP section grooving along to classic JT tunes. Rihanna seemed out of place and even a little bored. This was clearly not her VMA year.

Ariana Grande impressed me during the VMA pre-show with her performance of "Baby I." Wow. She has pipes. I expect big things to come. 

And then there was Miley Cyrus, the new queen of raunchy. After hearing the magnificent "Wrecking Ball" on Sunday, I was so looking forward to her performance. The song proved to me that she's a gifted songwriter and vocalist, and I felt validated rooting for her while others were skeptical. But Miley's performance of "We Can't Stop" appeared to be designed to shock and not to show the world that she's the next big pop thing to take the reigns.

All the criticism aside though, I'm thankful to Miley for shaking up a an awards show that has become terribly lackluster in recent years and giving us some controversy in true, original MTV fashion that will give us something to remember.

August 26, 2013 | Permalink

A Few Words About Miley Cyrus and Her New Single 'Wrecking Ball' [Review]

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While forthcoming new albums by Katy Perry and Lady Gaga are stirring up a flood wave of publicity, there are few other highly-anticipated new records scheduled to be released this fall that are equally exciting and are about to get their moment in the spotlight. Miley Cyrus' hotly-tipped "Bangerz" is one of those records that is likely to surprise people (in a very good way) when it's released on October 8.

Miley Cyrus a proper pop star who is fun, honest and not afraid to make a statement with her music. Whether it's transitioning from country to pop, branching out from TV to music, cutting her signature Hannah Montana locks to unveil an edgy blond new do or teaming with Diane Martel to film one of best music videos of the year, Miley likes to push the envelop a little to satisfy her artistic instincts and to offer fans something to talk about.

In fact, one of the most exciting things about "Bangerz" is that Miley sought out a renowned group of collaborators to help her craft a mainstream, global pop sound that is still uniquely hers. The songstress has worked with people like Mike Will, Pharrell, Future and Dr. Luke to create a record that represents a creative evolution for her.

Miley's "Wrecking Ball" is a brand-new track (and second single to follow "We Can't Stop") that leaked to fans on Saturday just in time for her much-anticipated performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. The leak on YouTube was quickly pulled down due to copyright infringement, but you can now download the high-quality version of the song on iTunes now.

"Wrecking Ball" is an impressive pop confection that makes me even more excited for Miley's album. Produced by hit maker Dr. Luke, "Wrecking Ball" kicks off soft and tender that beautifully showcases Miley's distinct vocals. Her delicate delivery perfectly fits the opening verse's lyrics about innocently falling madly, deeply in love. "We kissed/I fell under your spell/Love that no one could deny," Miley sings.

The track then unfolds in a big, rocking chorus that exposes the pain that happened when love got in the way of love and the budding romance came crashing down. Miley laments, "I came in like a wrecking ball/I never hit so hard in love/All I wanted was to break your walls." In the song's gorgeous middle eight, she sums up, "I didn't want to start a war, I just wanted you to let me in/But instead of using force/I should have let you win." That's some real stuff right there that demonstrates Miley's songwriting finesse.

One of the great qualities of pop music is its ability to tells stories that people everywhere can instantly relate to. Miley's lyrics on "Wrecking Ball" about that moment that love is not the answer even though you so desperately want to make things work in a relationship will appeal to many people who lived through an identical situation. Miley Cyrus' perfect understanding of pop is what makes this song so incrediblly powerful, moving and one of Miley's best to date.

"Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus (RCA Records)
Written by Miley Cyrus & MoZella
Produced by Dr. Luke 

August 25, 2013 | Permalink

Taylor Swift And Ellie Goulding Perform 'Anything Could Happen' at Staples Show

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What a surprise! Taylor Swift invited Ellie Goulding on stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles tonight as a surprise guest to perform Goulding's hit single "Anything Could Happen" together. The crowd went absolutely mental when Ellie appeared on top of the stairs to join Taylor for this very special moment that was a match made in pop heaven. Swift introduced her surprise guest as "incredible, wonderful and insanely talented." Ellie kicked off the first verse, followed by Swift and the two harmonized during the chorus. It's been a very special week for Swift who is the first female artist to sell out the Staples Center four nights in a row. Earlier this week, she invited Tegan & Sara, Sarah Bareilles and Cher Lloyd to join her as special guests.

August 23, 2013 | Permalink

Exclusive Premiere: Swedish Pop Duo Artymove Release Video for 'So Real'

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It's been over 6 years since I first alerted you about hot and happening Swedish pop outift Artymove when I wrote about their debut EP Bones. Since then, the group of Peter Sydén, Mathias Näslund and Mathilda Lindgren have continued to write, record and develop a unique sound of their own. Today, the three return with their new single "So Real" that carries a powerful message and is infused with a dose of sweet melancholia that Swedish artists have tuned to perfection.

"So Real" is a gritty, slow-churning brew of pop dominated by live percussion, atmospheric synth riffs and Mathilda's arresting vocals. The sum of all these ingredients is pretty darn epic and without a doubt one of Artymove's most impressive accomplishments to date. A press release sumps up that "[the song] is a call for reflection and a celebration of slow, sexy beats."

Artymove tells me that the video was produced with a very specific vision in mind. "We think the fragility of life makes us feel alive,' the group tells me. "That's the beauty of it. We're all heading for destruction. I guess we tried to explore these emotions in the video: the boxer who gets beaten no matter how hard he tries and the gracious movements of the fragile dancer. None of them will last."

On a positive note, they add, "Therefore, we want to live as much as possible while we can. 'So Real' is about our fear of living, it all ending and having to face the vulnerability of life. We've tried to capture this in the video by focusing on beautiful movements and devastating moments, hoping to inspire us all to some more bravery, some more living."

"So Real" will be released early September via Uniform Beat as part of a remix EP that also includes savvy remakes of the song by Pickles, Yusuke Nakamura and HaGeras. 

"So Real" by Artymove
Written by Mathilda Lindgren, Peter Sydén and Mathias Näslund
Produced by Artymove
Directed by Artymove 

August 23, 2013 | Permalink

Review: Lawson Premieres New Single 'Juliet' (Produced by Carl Falk)

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Following overseas chart success with tracks like "When She Was Mine" and "Standing In The Dark," rising British pop-rock sensation Lawson returns with their much-anticipated new single "Juliet" today. It's a mightily melodic and tightly produced pop stomper that combines heavy rock beats with a hooky pop chorus that is flavored with a slight reggae twang to give it that extra oomph. Quite frankly, it's the type of hit-savvy tune that Maroon 5 would salivate over to record. 

"Juliet" was co-written and produced by hit maker Carl Falk who previously wrote some of One Direction's biggest hits, and collaborated with people like Darren Hayes and Taio Cruz. The group's lead singer Andy Brown explains in a press release that he was trilled to work with Falk. "We're really excited for everyone to hear 'Juliet,' he says. "I had a lot of fun writing it with Carl Falk in Sweden earlier on in the year and it's great that it's going to be our 6th single. It's got an awesome energy to it and we can't wait to play it live on tour later on in the year."

To the uninitiated, Lawson is the teaming of frontman Andy Brown (vox/guitar), Joel Peat (lead guitar), Adam Pitts (drums) and Ryan Fletcher (bass). Respectively from Liverpool, Mansfield, Brighton and Chesterfield, the group was established when Adam reached out to Andy after seeing his acoustic covers on YouTube. The two met up, and invited pals Ryan and Joel to join as well that led to frequent jamming sessions in a shabby rehearsal room under railway arches in Shepherds Bush in West London.

Lawson recorded most of their 2012 debut album Chapman Square in Los Angeles with GRAMMY winning producer John Shanks. After the LP's success in the U.K., the group now has their sights set on conquering America. The Lawson four are currently stateside playing shows in New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco as part of their Everywhere We Go Tour. If the sound of 'Juliet' is any indication, Lawson is off to very good start to make big things happen in the States.

"Juliet" by Lawson (Polydor/Mercury)
Written by Andy Brown, Carl Falk, Eric Turner and Michele Zitron
Produced by Carl Falk

August 22, 2013 | Permalink