Whatever Happened to Chris Richardson?
For the past few months, last year's American Idol hottie Chris Richardson has been working on his debut album in Miami, FL with none other than Ill Factor (aka Ivan Coralliza). Ill Factor is mostly known for his work on Roisin Murphy's "Overpowered" in 2007. He co-produced some of the LP's eclectic cuts, including "Primitive" and "Checkin' On Me" and "Tell Everybody."
Listen to my interview with Roisin Murphy in which she talks about Ill Factor and how he moves around the studio soundboard at "Nintendo" speed. Roisin was more than impressed with this young production prodigy.
The first fruit of the collaboration between Chris Richardson and Ill Factor is the middle of the road, mid-tempo ballad "All Alone." Nice vocals, but overall it is a little too bland for me. With Ill on his side, Chris should be able to crank out something a little more edgy and distinctive. Watch Chris and Ill Factor jam in the studio here. I'm looking forward to hearing more tracks Chris/Ill tracks soon. (Click here to download "All Alone.)
Listen to Chris Richardson "All Alone"
Blake Lewis Returns to American Idol This Week
Blake Lewis is returning to American Idol on Thursday to perform his brand-new single "How Many Words."
It is quite frankly one of the few songs on his debut LP I don't care too much for. I think it is the odd combination of mid-tempo balladry and sampled beatboxing that turns me off. Why does Clive Davis want Lewis to jumpstart his momentum with this song? Perhaps the consensus is that the singer's trademark beatboxing will allow him to reconnect with Idol's fickle audience. Who knows.
Instead, I think Lewis should have gone with "1000 Miles" or even "End Of The World," a crisp and melodic tune that is filled with pop-worthy melancholy. Plus, that track reminds me of Erasure and that is not a bad thing.
Click here to read my interview with Blake Lewis that I did for Bravo TV.
The Friday Punch: Goldfrapp, Temposhark, Hercules & Love Affair, Mika, Jordin Sparks, Hot Chip
Temposhark and Goldfrapp are featured on MySpace Music this week. On a related note, the photo above is a very, very rare photo of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory together. So pretty. The group's new album "Seventh Tree" hits stores next week. Expect reviews to pour in this weekend.
J*Davey launched a new MySpace page with a pretty cool way to present themselves. All we need now is a release date of their debut album.
Streetlab remixes Hot Chip's "One Pure Thought" from their brand-new album. Grab a free MP3 here.
Very cool: My pals over at NewNowNext score an exclusive interview with Mizz Janet Jackson.
The Bird & The Bee release a new digital EP. Check out some new tracks here.
My guilty pleasure track this week is Jordin Spark's duet with Chris Bown, "No Air." Such a feel-good and crisp pop track. I also received a copy of Sparks' debut album this week and I must say that with tracks produced by Cathy Dennis and Bloodshy & Avant this LP might have some longevity.
David Byrn's Luaka Bop's label will be releasing "Brazil Classics at 20: Anti-Aging Solutions Revealed," a 10-track vinyl compilation of music from the tropicalia, samba, forro and mangue beat scene. Get a taste by downloading a guilt-free MP3 of "Claustrofobia" by Martinho Da Silva.
Hottest performance at the Brits? Mika featuring Beth Ditto. This has campy gay goodness written all over it. Yum. Really curious to hear new Mika material soon.
Chester French introduced their drummer. Holy shit! Manny knows how to hit it.
Check out the video for Hercules & Love Affair's "Blind" that features vocals by the always amazing Antony. Definitely hot to hear Antony sing over a kicky disco beat. Single will be released on March 3 on EMI in the U.K.
And yes, I'm joining the hip crowd and will be getting an iPhone today. Any apps you suggest I should download. Other tips?
Interview with Mario Vasquez
Television viewers were puzzled when American Idol contestant Mario Vazquez decided to drop out of the show in 2005. Tipped as a potential winner that season, people wondered what motivated the Bronx, NY singer to pass up such an incredible opportunity.
Rumors swirled wildly in the days following his announcement that ranged from unconfirmed stories about a feud with the show's producers to claims that Vazquez was gay and didn't want his sexuality to become a public issue. The real reason, however, had much to do with Vazquez desire to have "artistic freedom" and to be "versatile as an entertainer," as he told Arjanwrites.com in an interview.
And Vazquez got what he wanted. A few months after leaving American Idol, he signed a lucrative recording deal with legendary music mogul Clive Davis. The singer gathered an impressive team of producers and songwriter to work on his self-titled debut album that was released last year.
Read some of the highlights of my interview with Mario below. (Note: I spoke with Mario before the sexual harassment allegations surfaced and The Advocate cover.)
Mario on leaving American Idol: It had a lot to do with artistic reasons. It was the number one priority for me to have artistic control. I realized that creating my own sound was a major thing for me. When I started out with Idol I didn’t think about it that much. But when Idol progressed, there were more lenient opportunities towards things that I wanted to do as an artist. I wanted to be more in tune with what I wanted to sing and perform. The people at charge [at America Idol] would assume or help me create a certain image. But I’m very specific about what I wanted. It was important to me to be versatile as an artist. I think with my debut album I’ve accomplished that.
Mario on the rumours that he is gay: I'm not gay. But I want people to know I'm very tolerant of [gays]. I grew up with gay people. Growing up in New York City and growing up in the world of arts, it is something that’s there and I don’t even have a second thought about it.
Mario on working with Clive Davis: I went to see him in his office the day after Idol was done and I auditioned for him, which was really crazy. That was a real surreal moment (. . .) Clive told me to always practice my songwriting. He’s a stickler for stories in songwriting, and he always told me to keep writing songs and put my passion into it.
Mario on being the potential winner of American Idol: That’s nice when people say that. But my money was on Carrie Underwood! It is hard to say what would have happened if I had stayed with the show. I might not have gotten signed to Clive Davis’ label. I’m proud how things have gone down.
Second Chance for Chris Sligh
And the circus continues. Curly-haired crooner Chris Sligh was axed from American Idol last night. Voters weren't too impressed with his rendition of The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" on Tuesday.
But don't you worry about a thing. He may still have a second chance at a recording deal. Sligh's "former" band, Half Past Forever, recently submitted the music video "Know" in the online video music competition, Music Nation, where artists compete for a recording contract with Epic Records.
You might be in for a surprise. It starts out as a bland acoustic session, but wait until the the full thing kicks in around the 0:48 second mark. It is a decent pop rock tune with a peppy chorus, a dramatic string section and sugar sweet harmonies that sound a lot more polised than what Slight has been belting out on American Idol.