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Kylie's Musical Bliss

From Euro-hip superstar to mainstream pop newcomer, Kylie Minogue is surprisingly taking the North American pop charts by storm. Her album "Fever" debuted at the third position in the US Billboard Chart earlier this year and has so far delivered several radio hits.

With audiences demanding more, the Australian is now available in full-motion and Dolby-surround on her newest DVD "Fever 2002 - Live in Manchester."

The 34-year-old international pop kitten is small in person (Kylie measures a tiny 5'1"), but larger than life overseas. In Europe and Australia, Kylie is a true pop icon, selling millions since her debut in 1988.

Appealing to all demographics, she especially has a large, fanatic gay following. No wonder it was Kylie who chose to perform Abba's "Dancing Queen" at the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

The music and images on "Fever 2002 - Live in Manchester" were captured during the final lag of her European tour in Manchester, England. This DVD offers an exciting musical and visual spectacle, fortified by a 30-minute behind-the-scenes documentary, visualization footage and interactive program notes. The production piles up an impressive 28 hits and seven different stage themes.

At the opening, the stage transforms into a hyper strobe-lit scene of the 1926 cult-movie "Metropolis." In stunning decor of '30s art-deco and sci-fi props, Kylie bursts onto the stage, showing off her hard-bodied looks in a glittery, futuristic outfit.

While masked dancers in robotic costumes circle down, the singer opens with a mild electronica version of "Come Into My World." The cybernetic feast continues with a hard-hitting techno mix of "Shocked."

Kylie cheers, "These scratches are making me itch!" during the following "Streetstyle" act, which is furnished with '80s breakbeats, Keith Haring screen visuals and bright, fluorescent projections and dresses.

This stage setting kicks off with "GBI," which develops into a sweeping dance sequence with images of the singer in pink Japanese hairdo pulsing at the stage's multiple video screens. The scene progresses into a sexy, cop versus bad boy play of "Confide In Me," one of Minogue's most under-rated tunes.

Also impressive is the lush "Sex In Venice" act in which the Australian croons a perfectly updated version of "The Locomotion," her first international hit. The singer slows down for a moment with the gutsy cover of Boy George's 1993 "The Crying Game." Minogue's thin, high-pitched voice lends itself well to her power pop, but proves a bit too frail for performing live ballads.

The singer continues her hit streak, performing songs such as "Light Years" (accompanied by mesmerizing kaleidoscopic visuals), "Better The Devil You Know," and "On A Night Like This." She finally encores with her smash "Can't Get You Out Of My Head," which features the singer solo, directly fronting the audience.

Since the start of her career, Minogue has created quality pop music that is infused with a slight dose of avant-garde electronica, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and memorable images.

"Fever 2000 - Live in Manchester" confirms that Kylie knows how to create pop that lasts. Viewers, beware of the fever. You might just get infected by her musical bliss.

January 25, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interview with Anastacia

BOGGED DOWN, DISCOURAGED and slapped in the face, Anastacia has lived through it all. The 29-year-old singer has faced personal hardship and professional scrutiny throughout her life. Taking the setbacks in stride, the Chicago native is now having the last laugh with a singing career that is about to turn her into the decade’s first new diva.

Much has been written about Anastacia’s charismatic and exuberating personality. She is bold, self-confident, and never holds back from emphasizing her female independence. Like Cher and Madonna before her, Anastacia’s fierce persona and empowering, positive music provide a natural turn-on for a gay audience. No wonder she is quickly becoming a true gay icon with lots of video bar and dance floor play.

Anastacia recently released her sophomore album, "Freak Of Nature" (Epic, 2002), a collection of 13 songs that combine her love for dance, R&B and rock. The album is a follow-up to her 1999 smash debut "Not That Kind," which sold platinum numbers in Europe, but hardly got her noticed on her home turf outside of her dance hit "I'm Outta Love."

Raised in New York City, Anastacia is no stranger to struggle. Her father deserted his three children early on, and her mother was burdened to raise them on her own while working full time. The singer encountered another major personal setback at age 13 when she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, an ongoing, chronic inflammation of the intestines. She is still on a strict regimen of daily medication to suppress the illness. Her mother, a musical actress on Broadway, was a major inspiration for her to pursue a career in entertainment.

Initially, Anastacia performed as a dancer in music videos, but she got her big break in 1999 when she appeared on the MTV talent show "The Cut." She gained the attention of Sony Music's Epic Records, which signed her for her first major recording contract, leading to the release of her first album.

ANASTACIA CALLS HERSELF a "freak of nature" since many believe that the way she looks doesn’t match the way she sounds. Standing only 5-foot-3, Anastacia has impressive vocal capabilities. Her timbre is raw, soulful, and compares favorably with a young Aretha Franklin and Chaka Kahn, as well as Donna Summer at some of the more dancey tunes.

Her vocal virtuosity blossoms on tracks such as "Don’t Stop (Doin’ It)" and "I Dreamed You," when the singer is not restrained by musical arrangements and can let it all out. On the album’s poppy songs, such as radio and MTV hit "One Day in Your Life," she seems to be hindered by the cookie-cutter, melodic format, which compromises her singing liberty.

A key ingredient in Anastacia’s music is her declaration of independence and originality. The Anastacia gospel is well summarized on "Paid My Dues": "I’ve been knocked down/ But there ain’t nuttin’ in the world that keep me from doin’ what I wanna do/ Cos I’m too proud, too strong/ I live by the code that you gotta move on, feeling sorry for yourself ain’t got nobody nowhere."

This album goes beyond the much-repeated adult pop formula by mixing up a range of different musical styles -- from catchy R&B ("Thought I Told You That," featuring Faith Evans), to rock ("Don'tcha Wanna") to showing off her sensitive side on tear-jerking power ballads, such as the beautiful semi-acoustic "How Come The World Won’t Stop."

Anastacia shines on "Freak of Nature," making this one of the most tuneful pop albums of the year. She has truly put her heart and soul into the music, moving listeners with her infectious melodies and uplifting lyrics.

January 15, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (2)