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Must Watch: Cash Cash featuring Bebe Rexha 'Take Me Home' [Acoustic Version]

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While traveling in Europe and being immersed in all of the MTV EMA goodness in Amsterdam last week, I almost overlooked an impressive "official acoustic video" of Cash Cash's incredible "Take Me Home" featuring rising pop newcomer Bebe Rexha. This revamp is a proper stripped down version of the EDM-edged original that shows off the dynamite pop quality of the original track.

You can often gauge the strength of a pop song when it's stripped down from all of its soundboard gimmicks so that the song's melody can shine in all of its glory. In many cases, an acoustic version of a well-crafted pop tune will sound just as good (if not better) than the original and highlights all of the aspects that make it such a great song in the first place.

That's most certainly the case with Cash Cash's "Take Me Home." The song is driven by Rexha's distinct vocals and its catchy pop hooks. In fact, the song's pre-chorus is sublime and by far one of the most glorious pop highlights of 2013. "We knew an acoustic version would show a whole different side to the song," Cash Cash's Jean Paul Mahklouf says in a press release. "We brought it back to the foundation and built a whole new house on top of it."

He adds, "We always start the writing process on an acoustic guitar or piano before it translates over to synths and electronic drums. We recorded and mixed it in Premier Studios in New York City. We loved the way it turned out because it brought out all the emotion we originally felt when first putting the song together." (Click here to download Cash Cash "Take Me Home" featuring Bebe Rexha.)

November 18, 2013 | Permalink

HP Hosting Interactive YouTube Event with Clams Casino Today [VIDEO]

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My friends at HP have partnered with Clams Casino for a very cool, global interactive music event that kicks off this afternoon. The DJ/producer will conduct a live recording session on YouTube using his HP Split x2 with Beats Audio to turn commentary about electronic music into a high-energy track and music video. Beyond simply watching Clams and his HP Split x2 at work, viewers will have the chance to interact with him live on YouTube and impact the creative process by leaving a comment. Clam Casino and rapper Vic Mensa will pick comments and quotes from the YouTube comments section and incorporate them in their production. Tune in right here today at 12 noon PST to see it all  in real time.

November 18, 2013 | Permalink

Album Review: A Few Words about Lady Gaga's 'ARTPOP' (and Why I Love It)

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The beauty of pop music is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Pop art visionary Robert Indiana once said that "pop is love" because "it accepts everything." The rich variety in pop music today is a reflection of the diversity in the world around us that continues to change at lightening speed. One way to absorb popular culture is to amplify its defining characteristics through art. American artist Jeff Koons understands this like no other. He's known for creating vibrant and larger than life art pieces that glamorize (often seemingly trivial) pop culture artifacts and characters.

It should come as no surprise that Lady Gaga and Jeff Koons take an interest in each other's work. Both artists have an obsession with pop culture, a fascination with fame, sex and desire, and they don't shy away from a little bit of controversy to execute their vision. In a way, Lady Gaga is to pop music what Jeff Koons is to modern art. Their efforts are highly conceptual yet easily accessible to the masses. 

Lady Gaga partnered with Koons to create the cover for her new album ARTPOP. He also played a starring role in her artRAVE album launch event in New York City last Sunday. Koon's ARTPOP sleeve art is a mash up of Botticelli's classic painting of the Birth of Venus and his famed blue gazing ball that has been a part of his previous art installations.

There are clear parallels between Koons' style of art and Gaga's point of view on ARTPOP (most notably in its production and lyricism). Koons' work is highly stylized, scales small details to gigantic proportion and often garners a strong emotional response. Gaga's music captures all of those qualities and more. Much like Koons' visual art, Gaga's new album often appears excessive, outrageous and over the top, but that's deliberately the point.

ARTPOP is a multi-layered, multi-faceted musical journey that Gaga created with the intent to embed art into pop music. The pop star has said in interviews that she set out to create an album that "is considered commercial art yet is viable as fine art." Gaga has realized her vision by creating a cohesive body of music that is dominated by hard-edged and audacious production stylings, the theatrics of her performance and occasional lyrical references to the art that has inspired her. 

Musically, the album is a brew of pounding EDM (with gentle hints of R&B) that is infused with glorious hooks and soaring middle-eights that are solid proof of Gaga's songwriting savvy. ARTPOP kicks off with "Aura" that is a perfect representation of the album's overall sonic aesthetic that gives listeners plenty to chew on. Drenched in Zedd's flaming techno beats, it's a non-stop parade of melodic hooks that will have you dizzy on your feet from beginning to end. The mind-numbing groove of "Swine" courtesy of DJ White Shadow (aka Paul Blair) packs a similar intensity.

Other ARTPOP's highlights include the punchy "G.U.Y" and "Venus" (featuring ABBA-esque vocal ornamentations) that is a hyper-melodic adventure ride that shoots listeners into outer space and takes them for a spin around the Milky Way and back. 

Gaga's duet with R&B icon R. Kelly on "Do What U Want" glows like a pop beacon halfway through the album and reminds us exactly why we fell in love in Gaga in the first place. It's one of the best song she's ever recorded and will without a doubt stand the test of time. Gaga gets playful on tunes like "MANiCURE" and "Donatella" that combines electronic pop with a whole lotta sass.

Shooting straight from her gut, the album's title track gets to the core of Gaga's growing artistic struggle. It candidly deals with the fine line she must walk between commerce and art. Even though she's an artist who is part of a major corporation looking to make a profit, she ultimately seeks respect as an artist. "I try to sell myself/But I am really laughing/Because I just love the music, not the bling," she sings.

Gaga demonstrates her vocal prowess on "Dope," an intensely personal song that was co-produced by Rick Rubin. The track is followed by "Gypsy," a massive anthem in waiting produced by RedOne and Madeon that is a homage to all dreamers who are always searching for greener pastures elsewhere. The album closes with "Applause" that is perfectly sequenced as the album's grand finale and truly shines in the context of the rest of the LP.

ARTPOP's biggest accomplishment is that it shamelessly pushes the pop envelope both conceptually and sonically. Instead of playing it safe and walk a path already paved, Gaga steps out of the box and takes a risk by creating a wild art-pop "hybrid" that is rooted in her distinct point of view. Some may criticise that the album is too dense and idea-heavy for its own good, but its occasional opulence is intentionally part of Gaga's vision to make pop her way. (Click to download Lady Gaga ARTPOP on iTunes.)

November 15, 2013 | Permalink

Photo: Lady Gaga #ARTPOP Gallery at Cahuenga Avenue in Hollywood

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Fans leave Lady Gaga messages on a large wall at the #ARTPOP gallery and pop up exhibit in Hollywood that also features some of the pop star’s iconic outfits, interactive games and gigantic prints of art created for songs on the album ("Applause," "Dope" and "Do What U Want"). It’s a very cool concept to launch Gaga’s new album and enthuse fans that fits right with her vision for the record. (@ Lady Gaga Artpop Gallery, 1538 N Cahuenga Ave, Hollywood - Photo source)

November 13, 2013 | Permalink

Hot New Talent Alert: Listen to Hobbie Stuart 'Still Here' featuring Ghetts

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Hobbie Stuart may be new to most, but he's a bonafide superstar when it comes to his popularity online. His videos of covers on YouTube racked up a stellar 23 millions views over the last couple of years that led to a coveted recording contract with Sony Music in the UK. Now, the Brighton-born singer/songwriter is hoping to translate his impressive online achievements to success in the pop charts with his debut single "Still Here" on January 12.

"Still Here" provides a few solid clues about his soul-infused brand of pop that combines style with substance. The song is about making sure to always have an eye for the things that truly matter in life no matter if you have billions to spend or end up in a terrible mess. "The message behind 'Still Here' is positive," Stuart says in a press release. "I think anybody can relate to it. I wrote it earlier this year about some moments in the past where I’ve thought it’s been too late to do something good with my life but more so about those moments I realised it's never too late”

British grime rapper Ghetts adds spit and shine to the song's production with his fiery rhymes. "I’ve been a fan of him since I was like 15," Stuarts says about Ghetts. "Jamal Edwards from SBTV who I got to know a few years back made the introduction about that time and I thought Ghetts would be perfect for this song." (Hobbie Stuart "Still Here" EP can be pre-ordered here and also includes his covers of Justin Timberlake "Mirrors" and OneRepublic "Counting Stars.")

November 13, 2013 | Permalink