The Strange Case of Matthew Chisling and Mr. Hyde

Digital Greats: Who to look out for in 2013: Olly Murs

digitalgreats:

For many UK pop stars, breaking out in the US can be their hardest market. This is even more true for the young pop names, who struggle to make the transition to the US stage because of the oversaturation of the American market as it is. I’d go ahead and venture to say that this is even…

From my other blog! 


Digital Greats: The Intersection of Sports and Music, Kelly Clarkson, Pepsi, and the Dallas Cowboys

digitalgreats:

On August 13th, Pepsi announced that they would be starting a new project known as the Pepsi Anthems series. For this series, Pepsi invited fans of the biggest sports teams in the NFL to compose and perform team-specific anthems for the teams they love. However, the fans that composed the…


Jessie J has had a mammoth first year front-and-center in the pop spotlight. Her debut album “Who You Are” has sparked some pretty massive songs including “Do it Like A Dude”, “Price Tag” and the album’s title track - enough so that the powers-that-be decided to re-release her album in a deluxe form. One of the tracks on the “Who You Are” re-issue is “Laser Light”, a collaboration with french DJ David Guetta, who featured the young British pop-hop artist on his latest album “Nothing But The Beat”. The collaboration that I am featuring on my list of new songs to hear is called “LaserLight”. Artistically, it is arguably a track that is a bit more Guetta than it is, well, J, but nonetheless, Jessie’s criminally good voice rips through this dance record as if she was trying to put the biggest dance diva’s to shame. And, as she calls out to her music partner halfway through the track and the song drops, you realize you are listening to a really cool, killer dance record that is sure to do damage in the clubs. Enjoy this one! 

Listen to the song (with lovely cheesy lyrics) right here! 


When “The Voice” aired last spring, I had pegged twenty-four year-old Dia Frampton to win the whole competition. With her mesmerizing arrangements of hits by R.E.M, Kanye West, and more, Frampton had perpetually won over the public, including earning top-of-the-chart downloads of some of her strongest number. Now, just six months later, she has released a studio album, Red, just in time for Christmas. Having earned positive reviews, Red has been praised for its combination of Frampton’s signature acoustic-pop, country, and just a hint of dance music to make her one of the most accessible new artists of 2011. 

Today’s hot new song to hear is “Billy the Kid”, a co-written number with Mark Foster (of Foster the People) and Isom Innis, and while fans of Dia’s may be surprised to hear this track on her new album, they’re bound to love it. Frampton’s galactic number recounting the tale of a rogue hero is about as entertaining as this album gets - its swooping bell-clad chorus is completely radio-ready, and Frampton’s voice, her trump card, manages to retain its purity despite the lush, layered chorus. While Dia may have lost the Voice title to Javier Colon, her debut album is much more complex, interesting, and ultimately, marketable. 

Listen to “Billy The Kid” here! 


The Overtones are definitely not limited to British success. The UK fivesome originally started their musical careers as singing painters, often crooning old-school hits during their lunch breaks. However, after being discovered by a talent scout literally off the street, the group got signed to a multi-record deal with Warner Bros, and proceeded to do what they did best - create some absolutely masterful harmonic covers of some doo-wop classics.

Behold, a song from the Overtones debut album Good Ol’ Fashioned Love, released earlier this year. The song I am featuring today is “Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream)”, a doo-wop classic commonly covered but never as refreshingly as it has been done by this group. The Overtones are rocking some truly delicious harmonies on their debut, and the proof is no more evident than it is on this track. For fans of the original versions of this track, take a moment to recognize what a lovely revival it has had with a young, fun group that can make it into an Adult Contemporary #1 today if they wanted to. 

Listen to the single here! 


Later this week, should you follow my AllMusic career at all, you will see that I have covered the One Direction album in full detail, but for now, allow me to entertain you all with a song from this undeniably fun pop album.

One Direction placed in third last year on the UK series of the X-Factor. Though they were unable to beat winner Matt Cardle in terms of votes, in terms of commercial success they have already very much done so, smoking the winner in terms of fans and album sales. Their debut album, Up All Night, is a ridiculously entertaining album. Musically speaking, it falls somewhere between a The Saturdays record and a Kelly Clarkson circa 2009 record. As you can imagine, everything is chorally driven and very bubblegum. Guilty pleasure material at its best.

The track I am featuring here is “Tell Me A Lie”, a track that certain Kelly Clarkson fans might know because she wrote it. She recorded it as a demo that was unfortunately leaked - and, upon hearing so, decided to not release it on her Stronger album and gave it to this British five-some instead, who turned it into a pillow-fight worthy teen pop smash. Listen to it here! 


A Christmas treat to get us in the mood! 

Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams were two of the season ten finalists on the hit FOX TV show American Idol - He placed sixth, she was the second runner-up. Shortly after the show’s end, Reinhart was picked up by Interscope, the company that signed Idol-10 winner, Scotty McCreery. 

Though no original material has surfaced from Reinhart’s album yet - it’s scheduled to start being pushed in January - the creatives at Interscope have smartly decided to allow her to release a Christmas record, to remind fans of the raspy, luscious voice that Reinhart possesses. 

For her Christmas release, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, she enlisted the help of Abrams, who, though currently unsigned, was a fan favorite thanks to his goofy charm and spectacular jazz voice. The result of this duet is a Christmas track that is breezy, sexy, and ultimately, charismatic. 

Reinhart and Abrams have sizzling chemistry when they sing. Her too-cool-for-you cooing on this record blends perfectly with Abrams’ singing, and the fact that these two artists had so much chemistry while on the Idol stage only helps them on this record. This is the same song that has won over fans forever, however sung by two early 20-somethings in a truly playful way. 

This is a really fun Christmas record, and one totally worth downloading! 

You can watch the video for it here 


You may recall The Anser as being one of Paula Abdul’s top eight group acts on the first season of U.S X-Factor earlier this fall. While the threesome from Utah failed to make it to the live shows, they were unanimously praised up until their point of elimination - which, ultimately, suggests that the band did have something special going for them.

While often bands eliminated from these shows are often ignored, I found myself strangely drawn to this group’s sound, which led me to stumble upon one of two songs that the band has freely distributed to fans directly from their own site. “TimeStopper”, which is the song that is playing as you enter the band’s site page, is a surprisingly professional, polished piece of “organic power pop”, the branded sound of this brand. Credit must be given on the genre classification of this song, since the tune truly is one part club-dance, one part mainstream pop, without sounding too “tweener” - where the track fails to fall into a proper genre. The chorus rocks an unforgettable hook when band member Grey chants out “you’re a timestopper-er-er-er-er-er-er-er-er”, effectively forcing this piece of tune into your head for the remainder of the day. All in all, its proof that even without professional support, talented bands with talented vocalists and creative ideas can produce truly fresh music in any genre, and with any luck, The Anser will be a band that in a short while from now, you’ll hear on the radio and think, “I recognize those voices”. 


           

Contrary to what Simon Cowell may have said at her audition, Melanie Amaro was probably not what the producers had in mind when they brought the X-Factor over to the United States. The television program, from the get-go, was suffering a major identity crisis: Namely, it could not be seen as another copy of American Idol, or even worse, the newly popular The Voice: the latter of which it bears extremely strong similarities to. Because America already has two strong, successful music competitions, Cowell’s X-Factor program needed to bring something else to the table.

While many fans have scoffed at some of the choices that were made in the selection process for the X-Factor, I for one can see why Simon and his crew - Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid and Nicole Scherzinger - have picked the contestants they have. Rather than pick the strongest vocal contenders who can croon Motown hits and pop classics - Caitlin Koch, Elaine Gibbs, 4Shore, I’m looking at you - the judges put through big, aesthetically interesting personalities with voices that range anywhere from solid to spectacular. And, while no one could ever say that Simone Battle had more vocal talent than Tora Woloshin, what Simone has is that golden pop-star look, ambition, and all-together presence that would make her a contemporary pop-star. Battle is the kind of lady that could be on a Nicki Minaj track, and in her videos. She’s the kind of woman this show wants to win with. 

Melanie Amaro, however, threw a wrench in this plan. The modest 19-year old, who showed up to her first audition with shoulder-length brown hair and wearing a sparkly mid-length tank dress and leggings, didn’t necessarily scream pop-star off the bat, the way the four all-American beauties of Lakoda Rayne did, for example. However, when asked if she could sing, Melanie sharply replied with a “I guess you’ll find out”, and then proceeded to get the entire 4000+ audience on their feet with an absolutely riveting performance of Beyonce’s “Listen”. In two minutes of singing, Amaro had all four judges on their feet, Nicole Scherzinger in tears, and L.A. Reid declaring that leaving his job as a music mogul was worth it to discover Amaro.

Throughout her auditions, the bootcamp rounds, and her stint in France with Cowell, Amaro has presented herself to be pure class - maybe even too much so. While contestants like Tiah Tolliver started upping their sass and bringing in drama, Amaro started to fade by simply not presenting enough of a dynamic personality. And, even though she slayed her rendition of “Will You Be There” by Michael Jackson for Cowell, he ultimately decided that she was not going to get a spot in his top four, picking Tolliver, Battle, Rachel Crow and Drew Ryniewicz. It would appear that Amaro, as pristinely talented as she was as a vocalist, might not have had the popstar vibe that Cowell wanted: therefore, he picked saucier acts who could potentially provoke a bigger spark on the liveshow stage. A crushed Amaro was seen sobbing on the phone with her mom, and Cowell was shown hating his own decision the moment he gave her the news. 

Now, the editing of this show has already proven itself to be quite dodgy, but as the evening pans out, Cowell is show, on camera (surprise), to be doubting his decision. He “calls” the other three judges, who unanimously agree that he has made a critical error in sending Amaro home. No reason is given as to why, but Cowell basically decides he is going to Florida to pull her back into the competition. So, while each of the other sixteen contestants is given a smiling congratulations in a 30-second segment, Amaro gets the last five minutes of the show to herself and her family, with Cowell informing them in person, that this time, “[he] won’t let her down”. 

Call it a hunch, but I think Simon has decided that he is going to push Amaro to become the winner of this competition. 

Amaro’s audition has had over 4.8 million views, spread out over a few links. That’s much more than what contestants like teen wonders Crow and Ryniewicz, or vocal masterclass Stacy Francis have had. In fact, aside from Chris Rene, she has had the most views - and the best buzz. When Amaro was cut, fans ripped into Cowell on various social networking sites, blasting him for picking Crow, Battle and Tolliver over Amaro. When the situation was remedied just ten minutes later, fans were riled up but now happy that their underdog Melanie was a competitor again.

Now, Melanie is poised to be both the dark horse and the frontrunner at the same time. This is for two key reasons. First, she is in what is undisputedly the best category in the competition: it didn’t matter who Cowell picked out of his eight ladies to take to the live shows - any combination of them would be better than L.A’s too-green boys, Nicole’s questionably picked Overs, or Paula’s horribly manufactured and juvenile groups. However, within her own category, she has no competition. Battle and Tolliver will compete against each other for that urban, sexy starlet image, while Crow and Ryniewicz, simply because of their 13 and 14-year old ages, will fight for a younger market. Amaro is the only one who can sing to the everyman, who can step up and be the X-Factor’s Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. And while some have her competing in a way against 42-year old mom Stacy Francis, Francis’ maturity and Amaro’s youth element will keep fans voting for the one they’ll want to hear on the radio - and while Amaro’s voice is perfectly radio-ready, Francis’ is more dramatic and theatrical, in a way that suggests she might not be a radio star so much as a Broadway dream. The second reason why Amaro is poised to now win the competition is that she is essentially anti-Cowell - that is, her winning, or succeeding in this competition now suggests that Simon “got it wrong” and that she is fighting back. From here on out, she will be the girl who is proving SIMON wrong. This is a huge selling point with fans - when Cowell turned to Kelly Clarkson and said that he couldn’t really remember her, she set out to prove him wrong, and it won her over a massive following of fans. In addition to all this, since we know that “the other judges” were mad at Cowell for sending her home, there’s no way they will send her home during the voting rounds where the Judges have say. I think a spot in the finale is damn near inevitable for Amaro.

There are some broad-stroke concerns that are still at hand, however I suspect that Cowell will fix those up when he fully steps in as her mentor: If we look at her makeover photo above, its more than obvious that Amaro cleans up to look like a popstar quite easily: her homespun look was just the effect of a modest upbringing, not a lack of personality or pizzazz. As for her slight matured song choices, I suspect Cowell will fix those too, like The X-Factor UK did for Alexandra Burke, season five winner. 

Melanie Amaro has had fans listening and rooting for her from the beginning, and Cowell’s cut-and-reselect strategy simply resolidified her place as the deserving frontrunner in this competition. He did her a tremendous favor by reminding the fans all too clearly that she is the brightest star in the competition right now. The show goes live this week, and fans are buzzing harder about her than anyone else. I suspect it will stay that way right until finale night.

Good luck Miss Amaro.



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