Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Perfectionist Aims to Kill

Holler! 

Recently, we’ve been seeing an array of artists (most prominently Lady GaGa, but also performers like Ke$ha, Kanye West, and Dev – click here to read Minna’s take on the new starlet) bringing back the excitement of the ‘80s pop superstar (cue Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Prince). Among this league of image-conscious musical innovators is Natalia Kills with her newly minted album, Perfectionist. Discovered by blogger Perez Hilton (back during her days as female MC Verbalicious) and signed by will.i.am, Natalia notes that we all aim for the ideal – the perfect girl/boyfriend, the perfect job, and the perfect life. When we strive for perfection, we KILL it, hence the creation of her stage name (her birth name is rumored to be either Natalia Cappuccini or Natalia Keery-Fisher). However, the record is not about being perfect, says Natalia. Rather, it focuses on our attempts to make it through the best we can when everything is falling apart.

I first realized that Natalia was the real deal in the summer of 2010 when I encountered the online series she co-directed, entitled “Love, Kills xx,” an inside pass to her imagination, scored by music from her (at that time upcoming) album - click here to watch the first episode. Many have labeled Natalia’s sound as dark-POP, which the singer says is an apt description. Her music is forceful and opinionated. She’s the Alanis Morrisette of the GaGa generation. I must say that the production on her record is absolutely immaculate. The beats hit hard, and all the musical layers slide together and move along like a well-oiled machine. Plus, she has an affinity for leather and Jeremy Scott, both yays in my book. Released by Cherry Tree Records, a division of Interscope that also launched the major-label careers of Lady GaGa, Feist, Far East Movement, and LMFAO, Perfectionist possesses an array of melodies. Here are my favorite tracks:

The song “Wonderland” is fantastic (click here to listen). Produced by Ron Feemster, who was rumored to be working with Michael Jackson prior to the King of POP’s death, it’s dark but danceable with KILLer lyrics. She starts off singing, “I’m not Snow White / but I’m lost inside this forest / I’m not Red Riding Hood / But I think the wolves have got me / Don’t want the stilettos / I’m not, not Cindarella / I don’t need a knight, so baby take off all your armor.” I love her writing. Who knew Red Riding Hood could be incorporated into a club track? The chorus is the best part. “I don’t believe in fairy tales / but I believe in you and me / take me to wonderland.” It’s sexually explicit (Any boys want to take me to wonderland? My sched is cleared out this Friday evening), yet simultaneously poetic. Stunning.

“Love is a Suicide” has a similar feel (click here to listen). Produced by Fernando Garibay, who worked on the majority of Lady GaGa’s Born This Way, it sounds better than anything on that album. This is the type of production Garibay should have done for GaGa. It’s absolute perfection (pun intended). While Natalia sings, “You like the smell of blood / When it’s pumpin’ like a factory,” the beat actually sounds like a pumping factory! Genius! Plus, the chorus is undeniably catchy: “You can run, you can hide / But sooner or later / It’s gonna cut like a knife / Sooner or later / Nowhere to go / I’m already inside / You know / No one will love ya like I love ya / ‘Cause love is a suicide.” Sonically, it’s quite dark but without being heavy, unlike the songs on GaGa’s record. It simply sparkles.

I haven’t met a person who doesn’t like Natalia’s track “Free,” which was produced by Jeff Bhasker, a man most notorious for his work with Jay-Z and Kanye. She has two versions, one that features will.i.am (click here to listen), and one that doesn’t (click here to listen), which I prefer. (Mr. will.i.am can get a bit annoying, sometimes.) Plus, she taps into her seriously awesome rapping ability on the bridge (“I could look fresh in a potato sack” – uh, YES YOU COULD, GIRL!) Natalia wrote this song while she was waitressing in L.A., trying to make it. Obviously, she didn’t have much money, but she spent every penny she had without any guilt. She proclaims, “Wanna be like Midas / But my bank account is minus / Gotta stretch that dollar bill / Stretch that dollar…/ I’m free / I just spent all my money / But I rocked that like it don’t cost a thing.” The sentiment behind this track is FAN-FRIGGIN-TASTIC! How many times do we feel bad about making a purchase? ALL THE TIME. I love the notion of having no money, but still going out shopping in an attempt to look fabulous without the emotional aftertaste of remorse. Obviously, being fabulous and having style has nothing to do with how much your clothes cost; flee market finds can have far more personality than a generic Michael Kors shirt off the rack. It all depends on how you put it together.

“Kill My Boyfriend” (click here to listen), produced by French DJ Junior Caldera (who Minna mentioned in her Sophie Ellis-Bextor album review – click here to read), is bipolar. It starts off super happy with a bubblegum POP piano riff and then, out of nowhere, switches to an angry vibe with a rock & roll guitar, going back and forth throughout the whole 3 and ½ minutes. The song is about a girl who misses her former flame but can’t reunite with him because she’s engaged to a total douchebag. Her solution? Eliminate the obstacle. (In other words, kill the current BF.) Sounds like a plan to me!

“Break You Hard” (click here to listen) is an interesting track. It combines POP, hip-hop, and a rock intro; genre-crossing at its best. Natalia makes her strength known by starting off with, “I’m about to break you / This is not a love song, honey if you want one better turn it off,” and then singing, “Kiss the boys and mak ‘em cry, make ‘em cry, make ‘em cry.” I seriously believe she could chop my balls off.

“If I Was God” (click here to listen) is pretty self-explanatory. Natalia sings about everything she would change if she was The Almighty, herself. (Hallelujah!) My favorite part is the chorus when she sings, “If I was God, what would I change?” and a group of people yell back, “Love, War, Lies, Money!”

“Broke” (click here to listen) is one of the songs that shows Natalia at her most vulnerable. Once again, the chorus shines. The lyrics are gorg: “If I had a dime for every single time you ever made me cry, I’d be a millionaire / If I had a dime for every single time I should have said goodbye, I’d be a millionaire / But I don’t don’t cuz you left me broke.” The words pull at your heartstrings!

Natalia is a very promising artist. I saw her live when she opened for Robyn, so I can attest to the fact that she has the chops, both in terms of her vocals and stage presence/dancing ability. Whether she'll be successful or not will depend upon how well her record label/American radio will promote her, and on how close the persona she presents is to her true self, because people can see right through BS. With that said, the album is certainly solid, a major plus for this power girl on her road to stardom.

Unapologetically,

Gregory



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