A Few Words About Seal

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Finally. I made it to France.

I'm trying to ignore my jetlag and catch up on blogging and email while downing a bunch of espressos in a trendy wifi cafe. C'est très européen. The flights getting here weren't too bad though. I created a bunch of new compilations on my iPod including songs from Seal's latest disc "System."

I'm not sure what happened to that album and why it did so poorly, because there are a bunch of excellent songs on it. "Amazing," "System" and "The Right Life" capture that quintessential Seal vibe that is uplifting, atmospheric and soothing. Great travel music. He truly takes you on a journey with lyrics that can be interpreted in so many different ways that they provide plenty food for thought for a couple of hours.

Some might have been disappointed by Stuart Price's production work on "System." But I find the combination of Seal's soulful vocals with Price's electro beats very compelling. Sure, it is no "Confessions On A Dancefloor," but Price's soundboard savvy fit Seal very well.  It is nice to hear how the singer injects Price's studio electronica with warmth and authenticity to create an album that is romantic and heartfelt. To me this "System" has longevity (and I forgive for Seal for that cheesy duet with wife Heidi).

My guess is that Dancing With The Stars and Regis & Kelly weren't really the right places to market this record. That's just poor marketing execution. He might even be dropped from Warner Brothers Records in the near future and who knows what will happen to Seal's career then.

If you have given up on Seal then I suggest you don't. Check out "The Right Life" for example. Listen to it on your headphones to get the full sonic experience and depth of it. Listen to it here and you download it on iTunes or Amazon's MP3 store.

February 8, 2008 in A Few Words | Permalink | Comments (6)

The Promising Acts for 2007: Where Are They Now?

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Last year, you voted for the The Most Promising Act for 2007 in the 2006 ArjanWrites.com Readers' Poll. The winners were the guys from Dangerous Muse with Young Love, Temposhark, Mika, The Feeling and Lo-Fi-Fnk close on their heels. A year has passed, which begs the question: What happend to this "most promising" bunch?

Dangerous Muse
The duo crashed onto the pop scene when they appeared on the cover of The Advocate in the spring of 2006, coming virtually out of nowhere. They were signed to a development deal with the newly-formed Cordless Records and were formally picked up by Sire Records earlier this year. Since then, the two guys from The Bronx, NY have been preparing the release of their full-length album that appears to be slowed down by label red tape or something of that kind. When I met Tom and Mike in their studio in January, I heard almost the entire record. All it needed was a bit more edge, a bit more production and some mixing here and there, but it was nearly done. Let's hope Sire makes up their mind pronto before Dangerouse Muse runs out of momentum and the fans have moved on to new things. (For a good example of how A&R people can frustrate artists, click here.

Young Love
He seemed to have it all. This former American Apparel cashier from Austin, TX had the looks, friends in the right places and was signed by none other than Jay-Z himself to Island/Def Jam. After releasing his debut, he toured his arse off to showcase his radio-friendly, melodic sensibilities. But somehow it just didn't stick. It just wasn't heard and it didn't connect. Too bad.

Mika
Mika is the only one of the bunch who lived up to expectations. The Lebanese singer who now lives in London truly became a global pop sensation with number one hits all over the world. In the U.S., he catered to gay fans and graced the cover of Out Magazine even though he refused to open up about his own sexuality. I confronted him about when I interviewed him in November 2006 and then again last May, but he simply opted to keep his private life to himself.

The Feeling
Let's face it. They came, they impressed but they didn't go anywhere in the U.S.. Even with the mainstream support of VH-1 and a fantastic showcase at Coachella, The Feeling's high-grade, '70s inspired pop didn't stick to the masses. The good news is, however, that they are about to release new material, which could make The Feeling 2008's Snow Patrol. Seriously. Of course, The Feeling's Dan Gillespie-Salles gets major props for being openly gay. He told me in an interview in December 2006 how important it is for him to be an "alternative gay role model."

Temposhark.
You gotta love them. After a successful U.S. tour in 2007 with Darren Hayes, Temposhark printed a few copies of their debut "The Invisible Line" and announced they would finally release the album in the summer. However, the response to the disc was so good that they decided to wait a little longer and prepare a major release in 2008.  So if it wasn't 2007, then 2008 could surely be a very good year for Temposhark.

Lo-Fi-Fnk
They might not be sweet enough for American mainstream pop radio, but they are crunchy enough to make the indie kids dance. What I respect about Lo-Fi-Fnk is that they brew an exciting new pop-electro sound that isn't slick and easy to swallow. Instead it is a little rough, almost unfinished, which makes it a bedroom effort that remains fun, whether it is hit-worthy or not. After touring Europe, they are currently taking a break. I predict that they will be signed to Modular Records in 2008. They fit their roster.

December 18, 2007 in A Few Words, Dangerous Muse, GLBT Artists, Mika, Temposhark | Permalink | Comments (3)

A Few Words About Pink "Dear Mr. President"

Backstage at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2006, Pink was adamant that her protest song "Dear Mr. President" would never be a single. "Although, I'm sure France and Germany would like it to be," she added.

But who knew? I was surprised to see a video for the song pop up on VH1 this week, which might indicate that the fine folks at Zomba, Pink's record label, might have decided to release it as a single after all.

Written by Pink and Billy Mann (and featuring the Indigo Girls), "Dear Mr. President" is a bold statement about Pink's feelings towards the current U.S. president and his politics. She sings, "Dear Mr. President, Come take a walk with me. I'd like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly. (. . .) What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away? And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay? You've come a long way from whiskey and cocaine."

That's some powerful stuff coming from a mainstream pop artist. But maybe Pink is really not so mainstream after all in terms of her creativity.

There is a candor and fearlessness about her music that is truly genuine and make her stand out from the pack. She has carved out a unique (and slightly contradicting) niche for herself that enables her to put out slick pop tunes like "U + Ur Hand," but also bolder and more reflective pieces such as "Dear Mr. President" and "Waiting For Love."

And the best thing of all is probably that her record label fully supports her and might even release "Dear Mr. President" as a single, which potentially could set off a radio talkshow firestorm of Dixie Chicks-like proportions.

November 23, 2007 in A Few Words, Pink | Permalink | Comments (20)

A Few Words About Kylie's New Single

A true entertainer dares to step out of the box once in a while. Even in the cookie-cutter pop world.

Remember that odd groove of "Sexyback" or that sexy new look in the "Papa Don't Preach" video two decades back? Some random examples to show that Kylie tried to accomplish something similar.

Instead of serving up the same ole' electro, the pop princess brings us a catchy alt-glam ditty that is still sleek, stylish and très sassy.

But fan opinions are surprisingly mixed.

Clearly, Kylie fans like their idol in a certain way. Opinions range from "Roisin Murphy's new album is better than this" to "I love it. It will be huge," and from "It's bloody awful. I'm so f*cking angry" to "Really, it is quite awful. The reaction's going to be so negative with non-Kylie fans."

I think the comparison with Roisin Murphy is interesting. Both artist come from a completely different angle, but will likely appeal to the same fanbase. Personally, I believe Roisin has a heads up on Kylie. Her collaboration with hot, obscure talents like Ill Factor and Seji really took her game to a whole new level. It is gutsy, raw, deliciously catchy and, dare I say, a tad intellectual. Plus, Roisin's love affair with Gareth Pugh makes for some serious eye candy, which is an important reason for many people new to Roisin to sit up and pay attention.

I'm curious how this new Kylie's new track will do in the international pop charts (it has absolutely no chance in America). I'm even more curious to see how Roisin will fare alongside of her.

October 10, 2007 in A Few Words, Kylie Minogue, Róisín Murphy | Permalink | Comments (19)

A Few Words About the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards

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Britney Spears and the VMAs make a good team. They're both a total mess.

MTV moved their annual Video Music Awards extravaganza from New York to Las Vegas in an effort to turn around the show's sliding ratings.

But they failed. Miserably.

The entire show was an incoherent mess that demonstrates that this network has lost its relevance and is struggling to keep its core audience captivated.

There were many low and embarrassing moments throughout the show. Most noteably, Britney Spears' comeback disaster. The fallen pop princess looked awfully out of shape and her half-hearted, amateurish performance was poorly prepared and lacked vigor. Clearly, she has forgotten how to lip-synch and execute a simple dance routine.

Note to Britney: Can you at least try to make an effort next time you have a chance to make a comeback?

Throughout the 2,5 hour show, I craved more mainstage performances. All of those hotel room frat party gigs were messy and didn't translate to the small screen. They were also often not shown in their entirety. Rihanna joined Fall Out Boy for a pretty cool and unusual collaboration but their gig was interrupted by a commercial.

A similar thing happened when Adam Levine teamed with Mark Ronson to sing Maroon 5's new single. A quarter into the performance a Sprint promo dropped into the screen. Pretty disappointing for a show that is supposed to celebrate popular music.

Ironic was when Justin Timberlake challenged MTV to "play more videos" and show less reality series in his thank you speech after he received his award for Best Male from the F-listers who appear on The Hills, one of MTV's pseudo reality shows.

Timberlake returned for some accomplished dance routines during the show's finale. He joined Nelly Furtado and Keri Hilson for a Timbaland medley.

The show had two highlights that were worthwhile watching. Chris Brown's popping dance routine was electrifying and truly a career-defining moment for the young and very talented R&B singer.

Alica Keys' stole the show with the performance of her new single "No One" that was solid and on pitch. What a pro she is.

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September 9, 2007 in A Few Words | Permalink | Comments (9)