Archive for March, 2010


American Idol Top 12

Three weeks ago, the judges on American Idol decided who they wanted in the semi final of the competition – the top 24. After each week, two boys and two girls get cut from the competition and the public vote is the only factor in deciding this. Usually, I feel that the public get it right, or almost so, but as the results show for the final semi final episode is over, I am left with a bitter taste in my mouth, aimed towards the American public voters.

Now, I’m not narrow-minded or completely clueless about music. I enjoy almost everything and appreciate each genre respectively, so I don’t think I’m biased towards a particular sounding voice, or based on gender/race. But as I sat down to watch the final performances of the girls, shown on Tuesday nights in America, two particular performances stand out, and not necessarily for the good. Paige Miles, a 24-year-old from Florida, picked her final song of the semi finals and she chose “Smile” by Nat King Cole. In the two previous weeks, Paige had struggled to find a song that suited her as an artist, so this one was a bizarre choice also. Nevertheless, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and hoped she’d do something amazing with it. Unfortunately, she did not. Not even close to good, in my opinion. Katie Stevens, a 17-year-old from Connecticut, chose a Kelly Clarkson hit ‘Breakaway‘. She had been called old-fashioned and needed to sing something “younger” so this seemed fairly logical. Now, I’m all for a Kelly Clarkson song being sung, being the huge fan I am, but it was just ‘okay’. There was nothing special, and it was just going to be compared as a poor version of the original.

In the results show, the presenter, Ryan Seacrest, had put through two contestants from the top row of seats – 4 in total on each row – leaving Paige and Katelyn Epperly, a 19-year-old from Iowa. From the beginning of the live shows, Katelyn had been my favourite girl, along with another girl I’ll speak about a bit later, and even though Katelyn’s performance was okay, it wasn’t her best. It was rather forgettable and the song she chose wasn’t the one to propel her into the top 12. But the previous weeks, one including a beautiful rendition of Coldplay’s The Scientist on piano, she had shined and I felt she was more than on her way to making the themed shows. After recapping the performances, Paige Miles was sent through, sending Katelyn home. I was positive Paige was going home, and I was shocked and disgusted that the American public had dismissed the very talented Epperly. Maybe my other favourite girl would get through?

Again, Seacrest put through two girls on the bottom row, leaving the final two as Katie Stevens and Lilly Scott, a 20-year-old from Colorado. In the past two weeks, Lilly had been at the top of the pack, shining with her unique voice, and her style which she wouldn’t change for the show. She was an indie artist, as pointed out by judge Randy Jackson, and she made every performance on the show her style. She chose a Patsy Cline song to close the show, and, although she didn’t really do a whole lot with it, she still sang the song well, albeit maybe lacking a bit of energy. Lilly Scott, being my joint favourite girl, was my last favourite left. But in a de-ja-vu moment, Stevens was put through, much to the shock of many people in the studio, and fellow rejectee Katelyn Epperly, whose face showed the shock and disapproval of the decision. Scott was clearly disappointed, and surprised by the turn of events, as I’m sure she felt she did enough to make it through.

For the boys results, I picked two favourites also, just so I had plenty of choices in the top 24. Alex Lambert, no connection with the previous years runner-up, and Aaron Kelly. Lambert, a 19 year old from Texas, had a unique voice that was definitely destined to be a recording voice. All he was lacking was confidence, the rest of the tools were there. Aaron Kelly, a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania, had a voice made for country/pop. There is just something special about his voice that I can’t quite put my finger on. Luckily, Kelly made it through to the top 12, but that left Lambert and a previous YouTube singer Andrew Garcia. When Lambert was paired with Garcia, who sang Genie In A Bottle by Christina Aguilera, I just knew that the YouTube singer’s fans would be helping him through. And shockingly enough, Garcia made it through, and Lambert was sent home, extremely unfairly. He had so much potential, and I don’t remember any semi-finalists making a successful career out of music. Or even making an album. Which is extremely disappointing for him because he deserves it.

Another two boys were put through, completing a top 11, only one spot was left. Lee Dewyze and Todrick Hall were in the final two. Both performances were, I feel, the best ones. Lee’s version of Fireflies was edgy and well performed, and Todrick’s performance of Somebody To Love by Queen was amazing. His gospel/R&B feel worked brilliantly, and his vocals were great. Neither of them should be considered to be booted from the competition, whereas a forgettable performance from Casey James was rewarded with a place in the top 12. If I had to decide which performance I preferred, I’d have to say Todrick’s as his vocals were the best they’ve been in the live shows. The results were revealed, and Todrick was sent home.

America’s top 12 is:

  • Didi Benami – a 23-year-old from California (6)
  • Crystal Bowersox – a 24-year-old from Ohio (2)
  • Lacey Brown – a 24-year-old from Texas (11)
  • Lee Dewyze – a 23-year-old from Illinois (10)
  • Andrew Garcia – a 24-year-old from California (12)
  • Casey James – a 27-year-old from Texas (5)
  • Aaron Kelly – a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania (7)
  • Michael Lynche – a 26-year-old from Florida (4)
  • Siobhan Magnus – a 19-year-old from Massachusetts (3)
  • Paige Miles – a 24-year-old from Florida (8)
  • Katie Stevens – a 17-year-old from Connecticut (9)
  • Tim Urban – a 20-year-old from Texas (1)

Now I have to decide who my favourites are from the remaining 12. I feel Michael Lynche is a front-runner, his performance brought judge Kara DioGuardi to tears, I need another week or two to decide whether I agree with the front-runner status. Aaron Kelly is my only remaining favourite, and I think I shall add Lee Dewyze as my second boy.

Quirky Siobhan Henry has really caught my eye in the past week or two, and Didi Benami whose performance was brilliant will be my favourites from now on. I shall keep my eye on Lacey Brown, even though I don’t feel she can win, her voice appeals to my ears. Crystal Bowersox has a weird attitude, I don’t think she wants to be in the competition, she’s just doing it so she can get money for her family.

If, in the next few weeks, my choices for American Idol get knocked out, maybe I should keep my opinions to myself. Do I think my choices jinx the competition? Maybe. We’ll find out next week. If one my choices go out again, I’ll think about favouring Casey James.

Never before in my experience have I, and what feels like any pop culture enthusiast, felt such anticipation for a music video. If you decide to bookmark it in that genre of the media, that is. Because Lady GaGa’s nine minute masterpiece feels more like a short film, as opposed to just your typical everyday music video. With the unlikely pairing of GaGa, real name Stefani Germanotta, and Beyoncé, arguably the two biggest stars of 2009, you can’t not feel that the pairing would create something special. Having already taken part in a remix of Beyoncé’s single Video Phone, Lady GaGa’s song Telephone gets the star treatment and more than outshines the rather unimaginative video for Beyoncé’s form of communication device.

Continuing on from her Paparazzi video, where she was jailed for poisoning and killing her boyfriend, GaGa is dragged towards her jail cell by two interesting looking officers. What I love about Lady GaGa is summed up as she is stripped of her garments and left by the guards, with one of them saying “I told you she didn’t have a dick”. Having had huge speculation about her gender, GaGa pokes fun at herself and the rumour which sums her character up to a tee. The other guard replies with “Too bad” before leaving her naked in her jail cell.

Now this video probably isn’t suitable for children, with swearing, fighting and a bit of nudity featuring throughout the duration of the video, along with a lesbian kiss between GaGa herself and a rather butch looking inmate.

With a massive 9 different outfits, Lady GaGa more than lives up to her eccentric persona, making the bizarre outfits work, like only Lady GaGa can. Ranging from a bondage-esque chain outfit with a pair of sunglasses made out of smoking cigarettes, the studded jacket/underwear combo pictured above, police tape covering very little of her body and a cat suit.

From watching the video, I feel that there will be difficulties cutting it down for television, because of the detail and the suitability for younger viewers. Although the dialogue breaking up the vocals adds to the time, it really brings the motion picture feel to the video, and I feel that if the dialogue is taken away from the music channel cut, the video wouldn’t really make sense as a whole, it would just look out-of-place. At first when watching it, although I was in awe at what I had just seen, I was confused to the meaning of the video. Why would the setting of a jail have anything to do with the lyrics?

How did singing “Not that I don’t like you, I’m just at a party.” fit in with the jail theme, if you were on the phone in your cell? In my opinion, after watching the video a few more times and thinking about the lyrics, I feel that the meaning of the song is much deeper than what it first appears as. Rather than just a song about a club and ignoring a love interest because they cannot be bothered with them, what if it is a little darker. What if it’s about hiding a secret? Masking it with singing about a club and giving the wrong impression, but instead she is in jail and doesn’t want to let anyone know? Behind the theatrics and costume, it could just be about keeping certain things to yourself, but leading others to believe differently.

However you perceive the video, you can’t deny its unique appeal. Going from poisoning her boyfriend by herself to joining forces with Beyoncé and plotting mass murder, also from poisoning, before dancing amongst the corpses and fleeing the scene, GaGa does a pretty good job of getting away from trouble, or does she? The helicopter

shadow following their Pussy Wagon, the car from the Kill Bill movies by Quentin Tarantino, suggests that they might not be home and dry after all.

I feel that with Beyoncé’s previous roles in films, she outshines GaGa in the dialogue scenes. Knowles looks more relaxed in front of the camera, although I don’t know if GaGa’s character is supposed to be not quite so calm. Again, maybe perception plays a part here. What I do know, is that “Honey Bee” and GaGa are a perfect match in this video. And who would have thought the two could have worked so well together? It seems like we won’t have to wait long before seeing these two on-screen again.

That we do know, as the dreaded words “To Be Continued….” are shown on the screen, meaning we’ll have to wait to find out what happens next. You just can’t fault this video. It’s a work of pure genius that definitely deserves the recognition it will get in the next few weeks. The video is below, I’ve said enough. Just sit back and enjoy the video that will more than likely go down in history.

The Saturdays – Wordshaker

After a very promising second half of 2008, and first half of 2009, The Saturdays looked as if they’d pushed their way into the two-horse-race world of girl bands, with only Girls Aloud and Sugababes having a strangle-hold onto the charts these days. But the key to holding their place in the industry lies in their follow-up album. Chasing Lights just scraped in the top ten, at #9, so Wordshaker was looking to set up and get them a top 5 album, at least. This album was released on October 12th 2009, just 4 months after their final single from Chasing Lights, this has its pro’s and con’s. Completing the album 4 months after the promotion of their last single leaves them in the minds of the public, but usually that means their songs are being written for them, so they don’t add their personal tweaks to it. I prefer it when artists write their own music, but I must admit I was looking forward to the new album nonetheless.

Forever Is Over was chosen as the first single, much better than Chasing Lights‘ first single. With a quiet first verse leading into an explosive chorus, you remember just why they’ve taken the UK by storm. It reached #2 in the charts, becoming their joint highest release so far. Vanessa White, the groups main vocalist, truly knows how to stand out, and we are treated to a bridge solo from Una Healy, which is a welcome change also.

Here Standing welcomes you with a piano intro the girls sing over the top of it, bringing a classy ballad early on into the album. The chorus builds up the song from its softer intro, before bringing down the tempo and volume back to the piano verse. The change in dynamics works really well, into another killer bridge where White bellows effortlessly.

Ego, chosen as the second single, is another electro-pop masterpiece. It just sounds like it belongs on the radio. It’s also clearly a ladies anthem, telling the men to ‘have a sit down with their ego’. It peaked at #9 in the charts, becoming their sixth top ten single.

No One slows down the pace again. For me, the verses are a weak link in the album. If it wasn’t for the chorus or the bridge, I’d dislike the song. It just about saves the song for me, making it just an ‘okay’ song in my book.

One Shot more than makes up for the last song. A real highlight on the album. This song seems like a logical release in the future, with all the makings to become a success if marketed correctly. The verses are in your face, with the chorus coming to life to bring you a winning track. With the repetition of ‘One Shot’ at the end of the chorus, you will have this stuck in your head.

Wordshaker, the title track to the album, continues to brilliance of the album. This and One Shot are pure electro-pop perfection. With a dirty baseline and an intro of ‘Baby, I got you on my answering machine on replay’ you know it’s another ladies song. They really know how to make girl power at it’s finest.

Denial is a soft, vulnerable ballad, bringing the tempo down from its firey predecessors. Usually the weak point of many pop albums, as the audience wants upbeat songs, this really is a delight on the album. You know that The Saturdays aren’t just one-trick ponies.

Open Up follows and is one of the better on this album. Clearly there are many highs on this album, but its the chorus that really shines here, as big choruses seem to be their strength. As peculiar as it sounds, the backing music for this song is my favourite of all the songs. I’m not sure what it is that I really enjoy about it, it just has ‘IT’, although I’m not sure what ‘IT’ is.

Lose Control brings you another baseline that lets you know it’s going to be one of THOSE songs that they do best. My absolute favourite part of the song is the ‘Never before I met you baby, never before tonight’. The wording of the lines is just genius. It’s a real belter of a song.

Not Good Enough, for me, starts off poorly. I don’t appreciate the ‘Not good enough, just not good enough for me’ beginning. I just feel it sounds too screechy. The rest of the song is pure magic, though. The repeat of the beginning line sounds much better with the music. It might just be that doesn’t prefer the acapella singing of it.

Deeper is the only song that the girls wrote on the album, with a little help from their main writer, Ina Wroldsen. The song is a decent ballad, but it sounds like a typical girl band song. There isn’t really a stand-out moment in there, which is a shame. I would be shocked if they wrote the majority of their songs on the next album. I do, however, thoroughly enjoy the backing singing of the long ‘Deep’ in the chorus.

2 a.m brings the album to a close, finishing with the electro beats we’re all too familiar with. ‘There’s a tug of way and I keep losing’ is my favourite part of the song. Unfortunately, the chorus that follows isn’t up to standard. It lacks the energy that the backing music should have.

Wordshaker is a brilliant follow album, with moments of magic and brilliance. With a few faults, although tiny ones at that, the album made it to an equal #9 in the album charts. I can’t actually figure out which album I prefer. That’s why I’ll give this 8/10 also. Definitely an album to purchase.

Let’s rewind a year and 4 months to December 6th 2008, where former front-runner of the competition Diana Vickers was voted out of the UK singing competition The X Factor. Bookies and producers of the show alike were shocked when it was revealed that Vickers had received the least amount of votes, and would not participate in the final of the show. With a unique sound like hers, it wasn’t surprising she was signed up – after turning down a place on Simon Cowell’s personal record label Syco – to RCA Records. There, she would be alongside the likes of Avril Lavigne, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson and Natasha Bedingfield. Artists, not necessarily, she wanted to be, but the success they’ve had is undeniable.

Vickers put her music career on hold to star in the West End, in London, landing the main role in Jim Cartwright’s The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, playing Little Voice. Little Voice is a shy girl who, as part of her grieving process for her father, locks herself in her room listening to old records, and impersonating ‘Divas’ such as Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Dusty Springfield and Marilyn Monroe.

The plays stint in the West End is over, and Vickers has been concentrating on her debut album, titled ‘Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree‘. Her single premiered on Radio 1 in January, and the video was released just 6 days ago on March 11th. If you haven’t seen it yet, shame on you. The song is light, breezy, everything that made us fall in love with Vickers, but she’s not all sugar-coated sweetness. She’s got some fire, and her voice is perfect for recording. One of the singles of the year so far.

Vickers is back, Alexandra Burke and JLS shouldn’t get too comfy.