Monday, October 31, 2011

It's Time to SHAKE yo Bootyliciousness


Two of our favorite divas have released comeback singles from their second albums. Florence & the Machine (Florence Welch) and Little Boots (Victoria Hesketh) both arrived in 2009, receiving BRIT Critics Choice Award nods and spots on the BBC Sound of 2009 Poll, with Florence winning the former and Little Boots topping the latter.

Ms. Welch debuted with Lungs, an epic album featuring intricate instrumentation, including LOTS of harp. If there existed an album that was the sonic equivalent of a cathedral, it would be Lungs (which makes sense, because if I'm not mistaken, it was recorded in one). Florence was the artist I wanted to like oh so much, with her cooler than cool (but really, hotter than hot) red hair and indie-soul flair. Every time I saw her in a music magazine, her shiny red locks were perfectly manicured, accompanied by glossy makeup and fantastic fashion (love your clothes, Hannah Marshall!). She just oozed "cool." May I say "cool" twenty more times? It's warranted when it comes to Florence. Her music was original, innovative, and of very high quality, but for some reason, it never completely satisfied me. Yes, I enjoyed (and still enjoy) the following songs: Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)Girl With One EyeHurricane Drunk, and Swimming. The lyrics are gorgeous, the production is fresh yet simultaneously classic, girlfriend's performance and visuals are as energetic and glamorous as it gets, and her voice could knock someone out.

Still, something is a bit off for me, and I think it always will be. As good as Shake It Out sounds (it sounds SUPER), I have come to terms with the fact that Florence's music and I will never perfectly fit together. It's not her, it's me. I will always like (and often, REALLY like) her stuff, but will never love it (as much as I want to). As cool as I've aspired to be in the past, I'll forever remain the dorky gay Jewish boy from the burbs, and that's alright with me. However, that doesn't mean I won't enjoy her new album, Ceremonials. As expected, the cover is gorg, and I'm sure what's inside will be, as well. It's out today (Happy Halloween!), so go pick up a copy before digging your teeth into a 3 Musketeers.

I've liked Little Boots in a similar piecemeal fashion. A number of her songs are overly European for my Overprotected American ears, so I was initially resistant to her music. Little by little (pun unintended), though, the catchiness of her debut's tunes won me over. I LOVE Hearts Collide, which I included on our Spooky POP Playlist, Part 4. I also adore the Greg Kurstin produced New In Town (should totally have been released to American radio) and EarthquakeStuck On RepeatNo Brakes (perfect for nighttime driving), etc., etc., etc. (this list could go on and on). With time, her music has severely grown on me. She's similar to Robyn in that she combines electronic music with emotional lyrics. Many people call Little Boots the new Kylie. I like Ms. Minogue, and I do think she's far more talented than people give her credit for (ACOUSTIC   PROOF), but Little Boots is on another level. She's a classically trained musician who writes her music on the piano before adding any electronic elements. Afterward, she takes everything further with her use of the Tenori-On, a new musical instrument designed by a Japanese artist (according to Wikipedia). Little Boots has said that most of the instruments we play are centuries old, so she incorporates the Tenori-On, both in production and live performance, as a way to move music forward and innovate. On another note, Victoria's fashion aesthetic seems to be more innate and creatively conjured than Kylie's.

Her new song, Shake ('Till Your Heart Breaks), is super trancey. It definitely leans toward the European side of the dance equation, so it will take me time to warm up to (I REALLY want to - just don't know if it will happen or not). I can totally imagine myself getting sweaty and sloppy to this song, but it's missing the over-the-top American chorus that I'm accustomed to. However, it's impeccably produced and definitely gets me excited about her material to come. While Florence toured Lungs for almost three years, visiting America multiple times, Little Boots cut her first North American tour short as all the traveling was wearing on her. (I'd be absolutely exhausted after two years of promotion, too. The human body can only handle so much.) She took a well-deserved break, and naturally gravitated back to songwriting. These days, the music making cycle is insanely hectic, with POP stars releasing a new album right after the release of the last single from their previous album. It's nice to see an artist writing songs at a more natural, enjoyable pace - when they actually feel inspired, rather than running on a pre-defined label schedule.

Anyhow, I'm excited to see what's to come from these two gals. I'll definitely be listening to Florence & the Machine's Ceremonials over the next year, feeling out the tracks and acclimating myself to them, and will surely do the same with Little Boots' new album when it's unveiled. Let us know which of their two comeback singles you'd rather SHAKE it to in our poll up above!



Sunday, October 30, 2011

JFF - DEV & "Lightspeed"

When I wrote about DEV a few weeks ago (read our original post here), I did not realize how fast she grows on you.  After quite a few postponements, The Night The Sun Came Up, DEV's debut album, is finally hittin' the USA in 2012.  Most of us have heard Bass Down Low & definitely the infectious In The Dark, which have enjoyed plenty of time on the US airwaves.  However, since the album's postponement, we are thirsty for some more tight tunes.  Which song by DEV should we listen to as we sit & twiddle our thumbs?

My personal favorite is the track Lightspeed - it's pretty flippin' good and it gets even better with time.  The song demonstrates DEV's futuristic, electro-crunk sound - sculpted by her producers & good buddies The Cataracs - while also showing off her rap skills.  "I'm in a pocket / with a rocket, Ima cock it / & blow the roof off this bougie' club / F#c* the haters, give me some love" she raps on Lightspeed.  DEV's simple, catchy singalong rhymes are totally contagious - and over time, endearing.

What about you? What do you think is DEV's best song? Let us know!



Saturday, October 29, 2011

Estiva Makes Us Feel Fine

I have been stuck behind a cash register at my day job this week (got to save that $$ for grad school) playing one artist over & over & over in my head: Estiva.

Estiva is the name of Steven Baan, a gifted Dutchman definitely destined to join the ranks of Tiësto and Armin van Buuren (in my ever-so-humble opinion).  I first heard Estiva on A State of Trance in 2010 (I am an American who has lived in Europe throughout my life.  Germany & the Netherlands feel more familiar to me than Florida.  A State of Trance is often the soundtrack to my European nostalgia).  My first reaction was rapture & disbelief; Estiva's music flowed effortlessly, and the song I Feel Fine left me completely euphoric.

Estiva has mastered the process of elevation and the ultimate feeling of weightlessness - essentials to a good trance (& dance) track.  Even after his songs end, you are left floating.  The current predominance of pulsing, testosterone-heavy trance music in the US makes Estiva’s uplifting approach even more powerful.  

Without further ado, I introduce to you my 3 favorite songs by Estiva:

I Feel Fine (Piano Mix) - This 9 minute saga played on repeat as I suffered through the final months of writing my senior thesis.  A year later, it remains my go-to song when I'm feeling down.  Listening to the fluid undulation of I Feel Fine is like traveling in delicate loops through space and time.  Sound trippy?  Well, it is!  If nothing else can elevate you physically or emotionally, this song will.
Next Level - Next Level is absolutely massive.  The build-up is gradual and the breakdown hits you with the full force of a tidal wave.  Woa!  The energy in this song is epic and commanding.  It is truly trance at its best. 
Better Days ft. Josie - Better Days is emotional and ethereal.  It was also the first Estiva song I heard that featured lyrics.  Thankfully, Josie's vocals (traditionally angelic and female) do not overshadow Estiva's skills.  It is a genuinely thrilling song, with perhaps the best radio potential for American airwaves.  I am quite partial to the music video as well, if only for the totally badass neon green ceiling...

A call to all POP-lovers!  Check out Estiva’s beautiful music on iTunes & tell us what you think.  We hope it elevates you too.

Keep taking us to the next level Estiva! (I hope my love for you is self-evident by now!)  We have no doubt here at Unapologetically POP that you will craft many more beautiful songs in the years to come.  And when I move back to Europe, I cannot wait to see you live.



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spooky POP Playlist, Part 7


This is my very last installation of Spooky POPNESS, so I'm making it as POPPY as POSSIBLE. Enjoy!

33. Justin Timberlake - Cry Me A River: We all know this as the song Justin wrote about his breakup with Britney, but it works perfectly on a Halloween playlist, too. That synthesized intro, with the man-voice singing "heeeeee" is super spooky. Also, when Justin coos, "You don't have to say / what you did / I already know / I found out from him," I'm reminded of I Know What You Did Last Summer. S to the CARY.

34. Britney Spears - Circus: The girl for whom Justin's track was written turned out her own Halloween worthy tune. The electronic intro on this one is creepylicious, too. Plus, it's one of my favorite songs, so any excuse to shake my booty to it works for me.

35. Beyoncé - Sweet Dreams: Beyoncé embraces her inner dance diva on this track, which is why it's my favorite Beyoncé single of all time. Can you hear the sample of Michael Jackson's Beat It mixed in? Also, when was the last time we heard such beautiful lyrics in a big POP piece? This is one beautiful nightmare I certainly do NOT want to wake up from. (Check out girlfriend's live performance from the 2009 MTV European Music Awards. WORK.)

36. Shakira - She-Wolf: I can't think of a better song with which to end this list. When She-Wolf was released, I listened to it NON-STOP (and I was never a Shakira fan). It's so undeniably catchy. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I'm not even into wolves (or animals in general - sorry PETA), but I'll be a She-Wolf any day! (Potential costume idea...)

This was fun! Hope y'all dance up a sweaty storm this Halloween. When in doubt, dance it OUT!



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Spooky POP Playlist, Part 6


I have two more Spooky POP Playlists left for y'all! Here we go:

28. SparkRevolving: This song is THE soundtrack to a haunted house with no exit. It has a psychedelic quality, making me feel like I'm actually revolving. (I swear I'm not high on anything.)

29. T.I.Castle Walls ft. Christina Aguilera: Typically, I don't like when artists write about fame. They end up coming off as self-abosrbed, ungrateful pricks. Castle Walls is the exception. Why T.I.'s label didn't promote it at radio is a mystery to me; I know he was in prison, but this song is a surefire hit. Produced by Alex da Kid (who also worked on "Airplanes" and "Love the Way You Lie"), this track is ripe with emotion - you can feel the loneliness that T.I. and Christina refer to. It's relatable because of the sadness in Christina's voice. Plus, the synthesized instrumentation precisely matches the Halloween mood.

30. Bruno Mars - It Will Rain: Written for the upcoming Twilight movie, It Will Rain is a song I'll be absolutely sick of in two months after hearing it on radio rotation non-stop. However, right now, I'm savoring every sonic second. It possesses the same liquidy sense of space common to James Blake's music, which makes it just spooky enough to light your lanterns to.

31. Madonna - Devil Wouldn't Recognize You: Produced by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, Devil Wouldn't Recognize You contains the electro-funk we've come to expect from these boys. It features an electronic intro and spooky bridge filled with a chorus of JTs (every girl's fantasy). Enjoy it while I cross my fingers, hoping that the devil won't recognize you on the night of October 31st. (I realize that I can be unbearably cheesy. Love me or leave me.)

32. Michael Jackson - Thriller: This choice needs no explanation. Enjoy the video's zombies.

Check in later this week for our very last installation!



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spooky POP Playlist, Part 5

BOO!  ROAR!  HOWL!  We're baaack!

I wanted to end my portion of the Spooky POP playlist with some truly rockable, uptempo tunes.  I love Halloween & I hope, more than anything, that our readers enjoy this playlist as much as we have enjoyed making it for you!  So here we go:

23. The Kills - Future Starts Slow - Straight off their latest album Blood Pressures, ghostly pop-rockers The Kills absolve themselves of evil, singing "no longing for the moonlight / no longing for the sun / no longer will I curse the bad I've done."  The holler, they wail, they'll blow your mind.  Future Starts Slow will leave you suspended in time.

24. Lady GaGa - Monster - You knew we couldn't leave this song out! No Spooky Pop playlist is complete without Mother Monster's Anthem.  In Monster, Lady GaGa tells a morbid love story about a girl & a wolf in disguise, all amongst the backdrop of the New York City skyline.  From the very beginning, Gaga's a goner.  "He licked his lips / said to me / girl you look good, enough to eat," she tells us.  GaGa is a gifted storyteller, & in Monster no detail of the fairytale-gone-wrong is left out.  She tells of their dirty dancing, their make-out session on the Metro home, & her final realization that she brought a Monster into her bed.  GaGa creates a freakin' fantastic pop song about the true Monster among us.  And hey, isn't that what Halloween is all about?

25. Cut Copy - So Haunted - This song sounds like an alien invasion, pure & simple.  The lyrics evoke the image of jilted lovers standing in a desert, peering up into the midnight sky: "What's that you see? / there's all these satellites, satellites, satellites / orbiting you & me / One glimpse could change a life, change a life, change a life."  Eek.  Are they being abducted?  Were the boys of Cut Copy inspired by UFOs?  Who knows, but the song is flippin' freaky.

26. Fenech-Soler - Demons - We all know about my thing for electro-pop boyband Fenech-Soler, so can it come as a surprise that Demons made it on here? Besides the allusions to running from your demons / running into ex-girlfriends, I don't exactly know what is going on in this song.  However, like anything Ben Duffy sings, its full of sexy moaning & groaning.  So it's ace.

27. Ladyhawke - Magic - Magic, the opening track to Ladyhawke's eponymous first album, is a whimsical journey across the ocean in pursuit of love & adventure. It's kind of like a theme song for everyone's favorite uber-creepy 1980s kids' movie, The Neverending Story (remember the evil wolf monster Gmork?  That sh*t gave me nightmares). "One journey for you but it's worth it / one life here with me & it's magic," sings Ladyhawke wistfully.  You truly don't expect the journey to ever end.  Magic conjures up nostalgia for the dreamworld of childhood, where imagination is reality...

We're almost to the end.  Keep coming back this week for our final installation.  We guarantee you'll be spooked!



Monday, October 24, 2011

Why We Love Lily


Ever since I first heard Lily’s music on the ride home of an ill-fated trip to Montreal, the girl’s been on my radar. I’ve watched her morph from a Ghetto-Prepster Princess, sporting prom dresses, kicks, and larger-than life triangle hoop earrings, to Karl Lagerfeld’s IT-girl, posing as the face of Chanel’s Mademoiselle handbag line (can you say “tres chic?”).

More than any of her aesthetic choices, though, her music is what really got to me. I love her disregard for what’s trendy. She went from making a retro-ska album (Alright, Still) to an ethereal and atmospheric bubblegum POP album (It’s Not Me, It’s You) with the genius that is Greg Kurstin (if anyone can create the bubblegum sound of the future, it’s Greg).

Most of all, I adore her honesty, her ballsy lyrics. Out of the current crop of pop tarts, she was the first to tell like it is. Instead of constantly yapping, “Baby, I love you, I miss you, come ride in on your horse and do some moochy moochy with me,” she called the boys out (I’m so over female performers singing just another sad love song – no offense Toni Braxton). Lily writes about how much she enjoys hearing the boy who betrayed her cry on “Smile,” and so would I! In “Not Big” and “Not Fair,” she addresses the issue other pop gals are scared to – that a small penis is a MAJOR problem (sometimes the motion of the ocean doesn’t suffice). Also, has a creepy guy ever hit you on? YES, and thank the Lord and the Apostles Peter, Paul, and Mary that this chick talks about that in “Knock ‘Em Out” with the lines, “They’re like, ‘Alright.’ What ya saying, ‘Yeah can I take your digits?’ And you’re like, ‘No, not in a million years. You’re nasty. Please leave me alone.’” We’ve all been there.

On the rare occasion that Lily sings a love song, it’s beautiful and special. “Littlest Things” will make you cry when she coos, “I’d tell you sad stories about my childhood. / I don’t know why I trusted you, but I knew that I could. / We’d spend the whole weekend lying in our own dirt / I was just so happy in your boxers and your t-shirt…” Doesn’t that just melt your heart? Her words are utterly relatable. Whenever anyone’s relationship goes south, one dreams of the better days during the honeymoon phase.

In those instances, we often come to the difficult realization that getting out of the relationship might be the healthiest thing for us, especially when our significant others only seem to bring us down. With Greg’s soft piano and synths surrounding her gentle vocals, Lily encapsulates this sentiment in “I Could Say:”

                        You always made it clear that you hated my friends /
                        You made me feel so guilty when I was running ’round with them /
                        And everything was always about being cool /
                        And now I’ve come to realize there’s nothing cool about you at all

                        Since you’ve gone, I’ve lost that chip on my shoulder
                        Since you’ve gone, I feel like I’ve gotten older
                        Now you’re gone, it’s as if the whole wide world is my stage /
                        Now you’re gone, it’s like I’ve been let out of my cage

Ms. Allen speaks the truth. Sometimes, the best growth experiences come when we cut our losses and move on.

Girl/boyfriends may not be the sole perpetrators. Often, we find that the most toxic people in our lives are those we thought were friends. Lily perfectly captures this situation with “Friend of Mine.” On occasion, we let people into our lives who only weigh us down, talking about us behind our backs and playing on our insecurities. Really, though, they’re the insecure ones, telling others our deepest secrets and weaknesses to make themselves feel better. These supposed friends are actually bullies, and we’re better off without them.

Other times, we’re the bullies. In “Back to the Start,” Lily talks about her relationship with her sister, a figure in her life she was jealous of due to the sibling’s beauty, popularity, and general lovability. I’ve been similarly envious of some of my closest friends, so Lily’s lyrics deeply resonate with me. Frequently, we realize the error of our ways and, like Lily, hope for a second chance with the sibling or friend we love oh so much. We pray that we, too, can go “Back to the Start” and begin fresh, from scratch, without any animosity or resentment.

Clearly, love takes many forms. Unfortunately, in POP, we typically hear only one representation, between partners. It’s so refreshing that Lily writes songs about this emotion in different contexts, between friends, siblings, and parents-children. After a fight with my sister, it’s nice not having to attempt squeezing my remorse into Celine’s “Because You Loved Me.” (I heart you Celine! I just need a tad more variety.) Sometimes, we just miss our MOMMYs. Lily’s “Chinese” describes how I felt every time I left home to go back to college (of course, Lily was off to tour the world, but let’s forget the minutia, shall we?):

                        You wipe the tears from my eye /
                        And you say that all that it takes is a phone call /
                        I cry at the thought of being alone, and then /
                        I wonder how long it will take ’till I’m home again /

                        I don’t want anything more /
                        Than to see your face when you open the door /
                        You’ll make me beans on toast and a nice cup of tea /
                        And we’ll get a Chinese and watch TV

Just as a P.S. – by “a Chinese,” Lily means Chinese take-out (or take-away, as they say abroad). She and her mother don’t cuddle and bond over a newly adopted Asian baby. I figured I should clarify.

One of Miss Lily's many great qualities is that she isn’t afraid to tackle the bigger issues. She questions the existence of God in “Him,” societal hypocrisy and denial in “Everyone’s At It,” and the dubious policies of former U.S. President George W. Bush in “F*#% You.” She takes on political and beauty constructs in “Everything’s Just Wonderful.” Some of my favorite lines include “I wanna get a flat. I know I can’t afford it. / It’s just the bureaucrats who won’t give me a mortgage. / Well, it’s very funny cos I got your f*#%ing money / and I’m never gonna get it just because of my bad credit…” and “I wanna be able to eat spaghetti bolognaise / and not feel bad about it for days and days and days. / In the magazines, they talk about weight loss. / If I buy those jeans, I can look like Kate Moss…”

Lily puts all of herself (her opinions, her emotions, and her experiences) into her music. When she writes about weight struggles, it comes from personal experience. She’s admitted to being self-conscious about her body in interviews. She’s said that when everyone was complimenting her on her weight loss and she was seen on the cover of every magazine, she was actually bulimic. Some believe, including Lily, that POP stars ought not to be role models due to their battles with eating disorders, drug use, etc. However, I think Lily’s candor in publicly discussing these struggles is what makes her a great role model. She’s REAL. She’s truthful. This is why so many people connect with her. Too many POP stars create an illusory façade of perfection, hiding all their flaws. Lily puts her weaknesses out there, and that makes us more comfortable doing the same. When Princess Diana spoke publicly about her struggle with bulimia, the number of women in the UK who went to get help rose; they felt they weren’t alone, so their sense of shame dissipated. Therefore, I want to thank Lily for putting everything out in the open, thereby helping us absolve ourselves of our shame. You allow us to feel comfortable asking for help, too!

Furthermore, no one holds a mirror up to society better than Lily. In “The Fear,” the lead single off of her second album, Lily sings about her “fear” of British (although this could also apply to American) youth’s morals going askew. Instead of valuing intelligence, humanity, and family, children and adolescents focus on consumerism, outward beauty, and celebrity culture. What I appreciate most is that Lily doesn’t separate herself from the crowd she’s referring to. She realizes that she’s part of the problem as a “little pop star consumer,” herself. It’s this type of honesty that really strikes a chord with me.

Lily continues her reflective POP with “22.” This track reveals her feminist colors. It’s about a woman who spends her twenties enjoying herself by going out to nightclubs, socializing, and having a good time, as she should! Life’s a waste if you don’t actually LIVE it with a sense of pleasure. The sadness of the song is in its truth: upon reaching 30, which is obviously quite young, this woman realizes that numerous doors have closed. The same career opportunities that may have been available to her in her twenties no longer are. The woman’s only option is to wait for a knight in shining armor to come in and save her with a marriage proposal. “It’s sad, but it’s true,” which is how the song goes.

Lily may be a feminist, but don’t expect her to go burning her bra. She’s more open-minded than that. She believes in equal rights for women, and any minority, as is clear in her songs, but she also doesn’t look down upon women that choose to go the more traditional route by being housewives and stay-at-home mothers. As long as these women make such choices themselves, then all is good! In fact, Lily is one of these women. She is taking a long break from making music to stay at home with her new construction entrepreneur husband, Sam Cooper, and soon-to-be-born baby. Of course, Lily is a renaissance woman, so she finds other things to do with her time, such as writing the lyrics for the upcoming Bridget Jones’ Diary musical; running a high-end vintage shop with her older sister, Sarah Owen (for whom “Back to the Start” was written); and guest editing ES Magazine for the London Evening Standard. Read her article, “In Defense of the Housewife.” It’s smart and funny, just like her songs.

Lily hits all the right buttons. She’s so reflective and thoughtful. I love a good rack as much as the next gay man, but I wholeheartedly appreciate that Lily’s wit and emotion, rather than her boobs, are at the center of her music, a rarity in commercial POP. This may be why she’s not as prominent in the States as in the rest of the world. I am extremely proud and grateful to be an American, but I must say that we don’t appreciate a tablespoon of contemplativeness in our POP-cultural cake, and that’s our loss. There’s a place for LMFAO and Ke$ha, but I can’t listen to that all day. Someone like Lily is perfect because she wraps up heart and brainpower into a yummy little POP package that goes down silky smooth. She is THE pioneer of 21st century progressive POP, the voice of OUR generation. 

We will miss hearing you in our ear buds, Miss Lily Rose Cooper (her new married name!), but we understand and respect that you’re moving in a different direction at this point in your life. We wish you and your growing family all the best. Maybe, one day, we shall meet again. Until then, your brilliant catalog will keep us inspired.

Muah! Big Kiss! XOXOXOXOXO



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Spooky POP Playlist, Part 4

18. Imogen Heap - Hide & Seek: You may recognize this tune from Jason Derulo's Whatcha Say. It's one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard, and the video isn't hard on the eyes, either. The auto-tune used on Imogen's voice makes the track hauntingly beautiful. Usually, the software is blamed for draining music of its emotion, but in this case, it maximizes the ballad's gloomy atmosphere.

19. Bon Iver - Woods: This little masterpiece is extraordinarily similar to Imogen's Hide & Seek. In fact, that's the first song I thought of when I listened to Woods. Some of you may recognize this track as a sample in Kanye's Lost in the World off of his most recent album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Just like Ms. Heap's creation, this track is mysteriously dazzling. Justin Vernon (Bon Iver's real name) keeps repeating the same two lines throughout the whole song, "I'm up in the woods, I'm down on my mind / I'm building a sill to slow down the time." He most likely wrote them in reference to the time he spent composing his first album, For Emma, Forever Ago, in his father's Wisconsin cabin in the woods after suffering a heartbreak.

20. Oh Land - Wolf & I: I wrote about this track in detail here, but I'll provide a brief synopsis in case you missed it. It's a hauntingly simple love song in which Oh Land is the moon and the wolf is her lover. (Sometimes the wolf isn't so big and bad.) To know the rest, give the song a spin.

21. James Blake - The Wilhelm Scream: Like many of Mr. Blake's songs, this one sounds like pure water. It's about self-doubt, which is often the scariest of sentiments. James coos, "I don't know about my dreams / I don't know about my dreaming anymore / All that I know is I'm falling, falling, falling, falling / Might as well fall in." 

22. Little Boots - Hearts Collide: This is a sparkly, spooky dance track. Its sound is simultaneously icy and warm. The lyrics are exquisite, "I don't mind being alone / Keep myself to myself / I walk the streets in the rain / And keep my head down." Everything about it, from the glistening production to Little Boots' wolf-like howls, is slightly spine-chilling.

23. Jennifer Lopez - Hypnotico: I figured I should end this portion of the list with a club banger, considering #18 - #22 could keep you in therapy for a month. Hypnotico, a bonus track co-written by GaGa and Akon on JLo's last album, Love?, is dark, dancey and sexy. My favorite line is, "Hungry for some yum, yum / Gonna get me some, some." Just listening to it, I want to work my way over to the club and get all sweaty. Enjoy!

And don't worry. We have more Spooky POP on the way to keep you HOT and HAUNTED.



Saturday, October 22, 2011

Spooky POP Playlist, Part 3

Part 3 is here: get ready to dance in the dark!  I must say, making this playlist has been one of my favorite posts so far.  I threw in 2 tracks at the end to give you the SuperSpooks (BEWARE).  Here we go:

11) Natalia Kills – Zombie –Natalia Kills, the indisputable Queen of Dark Pop, falls hard for a heartless zombie who wants nothing more than to feel her up & eat her brains.  As she sings “cold cold, freezing freezing / got my heart beating, beating…” Natalia is seduced by the living dead into a world of sex, mortality, blood, & violence.  It's totally twisted... and bewitching.

12) Kerli – Walking On Air - Estonian singer-songwriter Kerli is a master at her craft; she manages to create hauntingly melodic yet undeniably Gothic pop music.  The lyrics to Walking On Air are personal & delicate, while the song is as freakin' creepy as a Hot Topic porcelain doll collection.  The light-heavy tension makes Walking On Air a warped & fantastic song.

12) Katy Perry: E.T. – I’m really not diehard for Katy, but E.T. has a massive beat.  Personally, aliens terrify me, as does the music video which features impressive visuals.  "Take me/ Ta-ta-take me / Wanna be a victim / ready for abduction!" cries Katy. In E.T. she shows a darker side, & it's endearing.  Plus, who can miss Kanye rapping about "alien sex?" Ugh, the idea alone gives me the shivers.

14) Röyksopp – The Girl and the Robot ft. RobynAll night long Robyn lies awake, waiting & waiting for her robot-lover to return home & satisfy her.  It isn't easy.  Her lover is mechanical, perfunctory, emotionless... a byproduct of a world running on automatic.  Robyn's collaboration with Norwegian ambient musicians Röyksopp is simply brilliant, creating a bizarre but genius dance track.

15) Bat For Lashes – Moon and Moon - The husky voice of Natasha Khan accompanied by piano create something foreboding & mystical in Moon and Moon.  "I am a huntress" she sings, "for a husband lost at sea."  The song is softer others on our playlist, & oddly eerie, like a flock of bats underneath the moonlight...

I promised you 2 extra songs!  Warning, listen if you dare... 

X-Rated Bonus Tracks:

16) The Knife – We Share Our Mother's Health - Swedish band The Knife is quite possibly the iciest pop music you will ever hear (are Karen & Olof singing or are they fornicating?).  We Share Our Mother's Health is a strange & sexual track.  It makes you want to dance with loads of black lipstick & eyeliner on.  My roommate Meg put it aptly when she warned never to listen to The Knife alone in the car - you will drive off the road.

17) Miss Kittin & the Hacker – The Womb – I went through a huge Miss Kittin phase in college, much to the mortification of my roommates (sorry about Reqiuem For a Hit Meggie).  In The Womb, French feminist & professional ass-kicker Miss Kittin declares “I am not the silent woman!” & chants “evolution, evolution” over the Hacker’s super-slick production.  Frightening is an understatement.  You half-expect a possessed demon-child to come at you with a switchblade… which is probably what they were going for in the first place.

Are you spooked?  



Friday, October 21, 2011

JFF - Icona Pop

New on our radar: the band Icona Pop hails from… you guessed it!  Sweden.  (Where else?) Composed of Aino Jawo & Caroline Hjelt, Icona Pop has already been featured in Rolling Stone Magazine & on Dolce & Gabbana's music blog.  Their first single, “Manners,” is a drippy electronic dance track best experienced underneath a disco-ball that shoots neon lasers… or perhaps on a runway. (Listen to "Manners" here)

Icona Pop's latest release, "Nights Like This," instantly caught my attention.  "High on every sound / all the lights are down,” sings Aino, "me & my friends grow tall / we make a big city small."  The indomitable duo declare their invincibility under the cover of darkness, their simple lyrics flawlessly bespeaking the indestructibility of youth & friendship, all over a hand-crafted electro-tune. 
The “Nights Like This” music video did not disappoint; Icona Pop created an epic mini-movie, kind of like Lady Gaga & Beyonce’s “Telephone” meets “Kill Bill.”  In "Nights Like This" Aino & Caroline hit the road in an old school Mustang, take a pit-stop to chow down on nachos, & defeat an axe-wielding cowboy murderer.  Basically, totally badass.  To watch the Nordic girl-power team in action, click here.  They literally kick ass.

Signed by Neon Gold records (Ellie Goulding, Marina & the Diamonds), these partners-in-crime definitely have some more tricks up their sleeves... & we look forward to hearing them.



Spooky POP Playlist, Part 2


Here are the first five tunes on my Spooky POP Playlist!

6) Rihanna - Disurbia: When girlfriend starts off with "Bum bum be-dum bum bum be-dum bum," you know you're in for a crazy ride. Plus the haunted-jail cell video is as spooky as they get. This is dark-pop at its most fun! 

7) Lady GaGa - Dance in the Dark: From The Fame Monster (my favorite Gaga compilation thus far), this song gives me chills. I love that the lyrics have meaning. You can shake it to the shimmery beats, paying no mind to the song's content, but if you want content, it's there. The song is about women who have been suppressed, subjugated, and taken advantage of, including Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Sylvia Plath, and Princess Diana. "Baby loves to dance in the dark / cuz when he's lookin, she falls apart / Baby loves to dance, loves to dance in the dark." The words give me chills.

8) Lady GaGa - Bloody Mary: You thought you were going to get away with only one GaGa track? Forget about it! The title justifies this track's place on our list. It's a love song that makes references to Pontius, Michelangelo, Jesus, and Mary Magdalene, of course. I won't lie, whatever's going on in the song is a bit over my head. With this one, I'll just dance to the spooky beat.

9) Metric - Help, I'm Alive: The production on this track is dark, heavy, and mechanical, while Emily Haines sings, "I tremble, they're gonna eat me alive." For something slightly more relaxed, check out the simplistically beautiful acoustic version.

10) Marina & the Diamonds - The Outsider: LOVE this chick. There's no way she wouldn't be on our list. The Outsider is an enjoyable listen, but the LYRICS. The lyrics are what really get to me. They're utterly relatable, especially when she sings, "Feeling like a loser / Feeling like a bum / Sitting on the outside / Observing the fun." Um, story of my life. Then, the song takes a turn for the worse as Marina croons, "Don't get on my bad side / I can work a gun / Hop into the backseat baby / I'll show you some fun." And fun it is (the song, anyway. I can't speak for the people in her backseat. Their fate probably wasn't so fun).

We have more Halloween fun coming your way tomorrow, so make sure to check in!



Thursday, October 20, 2011

Britney May Be A "Criminal," But We're Guilty Of Searching For Someone Who's Not There


We’ve received a request from an Unapologetically POP fan for a review of Brit Brit’s "Criminal" video off of her most recent album, Femme Fatale. Let me preface this by saying that, as a gay man, Britney’s been as essential an ingredient to my life as ketchup is to brisket. She’s been there from the start. I remember fifth grade filled with "Baby One More Time" sing-alongs, which I longed to participate in (but didn’t, because boys aren’t supposed to do such things, or so I was told). Then came the "(You Drive Me) Crazy" video in sixth grade, with Melissa Joan Heart and a then-unknown Adrian Grenier playing THE coolest bartenders. (I asked my parents if Sabrina the Teenage Witch and her man-friend could serve Shirley Temples at my Bar Mitzvah. You can probably imagine how that conversation went.) In seventh grade, everyone was listening to and watching “Oops…I Did It Again,” with Ms. Spears sporting an unforgettable red cat-suit and reenacting Titanic in outer space (that boy was HOT), and, one of my Brit Brit faves, “Stronger,” displaying that amazing chair choreography and car ride through a thunder storm. With eighth grade arrived “Slave 4 U.” Britney went sexy and sweaty in what looked like an Asian sweatshop turned bathhouse. Girlfriend was peaking, in terms of her career and ability. She tapped out with In the Zone, my favorite album of hers, and also the one that no one seemed to buy. This was Britney's post-Justin phase, and Miss Thang was celebrating being an independent glamor girl about town! I love the singles “Me Against The Music” featuring Madonna; “Everytime,” the beautiful ballad that Britney supposedly wrote on the piano; and the now venerated “Toxic,” which some say is the “Vogue” of Britney’s career. Many are unaware of the other fantastic songs on the record, like the moody, atmospheric “Breathe On Me” and “Touch Of My Hand,” which is about (you guessed it!) masturbation (sometimes all a girl needs is a quality vibrator). – Watch my favorite performances from this era, here: “Boys" & "Slave 4 U,” "Toxic," and "Me Against The Music." Girlfriend WORKS  IT in stiletto boots.

Facades don't get glitzier than this (2003)
Unfortunately, we’re all aware of what happened after. She married and then divorced Mr. Kevin Federline, subsequently revealing the turmoil that had, up until then, been hidden behind a glitzy facade. We saw her drug issues and mental collapses splashed all over our television screens. (We all remember Brit Brit being wheeled out of her Bel Air mansion on a gurney, right?) We expected a comeback with Blackout, and people even liked the singles, especially “Piece of Me,” but when we saw the POP Princess debut “Gimme More” at the VMA’s, we knew it wasn’t for real.

Finally, us fans received a proper comeback with Circus. Most everyone loved songs like “Womanizer,” “Circus” (one of my fave Britney tracks to this day), and “If U Seek Amy” (which some liked, but I prefer to block from my memory). Afterward, there was Part 2 of her comeback with Femme Fatale, and now here we are. Still, something seems to be missing. Whether we want to admit it or not, Britney is no longer the most polished of dancers, relinquishing that title to Beyoncé. Even her spunk is gone, and secretly, we all know why. This poor girl was exploited, worked, and sexualized to the bone so that the industry around her (managers, lawyers, publicists, doll-makers, etc.) could scrape every possible penny out of the Spears Machine. Obviously, she too made lots of dough from the arrangement, but it’s no wonder all we’re left with is a personality-less shell of a POP star who seems to be operating like a rusty robot. At this point, I feel as though I’m obligated to love Britney, despite her shortcomings, because this chick’s been to hell and back (and clearly, seeing the devil has impacted her ability to walk, talk, and express emotion. Or maybe it’s the tranquilizers her controllers have her on).

With all that said, I actually like the video for “Criminal,” but I state this in the current context of her career. (I’m not so sure I would have loved it in 2003.) It starts out showing Britney at a glamorous ball with her cute but abusive boyfriend. She takes a break, goes to the powder room to dowse herself with her own perfume, and then comes out to see him flirting with another chick. She confronts the a$$-hole and they go outside, where he hits her repeatedly until her real-life boyfriend, Jason Trawick (the video’s “Criminal”), saves her. Britney and her bad boy end up falling in lust, confirming their hotness for each other by having sex in Jason’s bed, going out to rob a store (nothing says sizzle like larceny), and then proceeding to have some more of the hottest sex I’ve seen in a while in Mr. Man’s shower (steamy – Jason is JACKED). They end up in a shootout by the cops, protected by the sparkle of their kiss (Literally, the bullets sparkle. Nauseating or charming? You decide.), thereby immortalizing the POP Princess. It’s a pretty video. I’ll compare it to a low-fat ice cream sundae. It looks delicious, so you take a bite, only to discover it has no taste, and that’s that! Y’all can keep pretending to see the old Britney in the new Britney, but I’ll just use my memory to savor the Brit Brit of yore whilst enjoying some of her songs and looking forward to the next big thing. The END.



Spooky POP Playlist, Part 1

Halloween is almost upon us, so Gregory & I decided to compile the ultimate Spooky Pop Playlist to get y'all in the mood.  We chose the very best pop songs to get you dancing and give you creeps.  Here are the first 5 tracks:

1) Sneaker Pimps- Bloodsport: This song is simply a classic.  It’s a super creepy 90s throwback that deals with the dark and sinister forces of sex & death.  "My mother never told me that love is just a bloodsport..." totally contagious.  The perfect opening track.  Listen to its breathy creepiness here.

2)SBTRKT – Wildfire: In “Wildfire,” the mysterious masked SBTRKT one of my favorite new London DJs, warns us not to play with the paranormal.  Check it out here.

3) Florence + the Machine – Howl: The transformative power of love turns Florence Welch into a flesh-hungry beast.  “I hunt for you with bloody feet across the hollow ground” Florence yowls.  She’s on the prowl, baying at the moon!  Listen here.

4) Ladyhawke - Dusk Til Dawn: – Things that go bump in the night - footsteps in the hall, banging on the wall - keep Ladyhawke up all night!  This song is pop-perfection, and explores about the eerie forces of ghostly love. Rock out to it here.

5) Lykke Li – I Follow Rivers: The songstress Lykke Li composes a dark and ominous stalker song like only a Swede can.  (Listen here)  Watch out, someone’s coming for you…

Stay tuned, we have many more spooky songs on the way... what will be next on the playlist?



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

JFF - Pixie Lott is all Grown Up!

Wow, that seemed fast!  We turned our heads & little miss Pixie grew up & is shaking what her Mama Do gave her.

I absolutely loved Pixie's last song, an up-tempo Saturday night anthem (listen to All About Tonight here) evidently aimed at expanding Pixie's American fanbase & selling her music to a slightly older crowd (older than Nickelodeon viewers, that is).  The music video finds her sporting an eye-catching new haircut and a sleaker, sexier look.  A standard sophomore album tune-up.

Okay, fast-forward to Pixie's newest single, What Do You Take Me For, featuring rapper Pusha T (yup, the same Pusha T that throws cocaine around in his music videos).  Let me say, I really liked the song when I first heard it.  It packs a mean punch thanks to Pixie's vocals & dubstep DJ Rusko's production... but when I saw the music video, I was totally taken aback.  Cocaine-proud Pusha T keeps it relatively PG-13, but Pixie, obviously living under the shadow of the overtly sexual female stars, is almost unrecognizable.  I acknowledge that when a starlet is as beautiful as Pixie is, it is only natural to dress her in a skin-tight leather dress & ask her to dance against a grimy warehouse wall... but still.

What Do You Take Me For is a tight track nonetheless... but I am not sure if I am prepared for what else Pixie & Mercury Records have up their sleeves.  Will they wow us even more?  Watch the music video for What Do You Take Me For here.

Pixie's sophomore album, Young, Foolish, Happy is set for UK release on November 7.  Don't worry, we will review it that fateful month.  I'm not sure what to expect... but if Pixie has her way, we won't be taking her for a child anymore.