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‘I was only 15 years old and I was already friends with Michael Jackson’: Ricky Rebel talks with So So Gay

Ricky Rebel may not be a name that immediately rings a bell, but any hardcore boyband fan should immediately recognise his face as that of the multi-named former No Authority lead singer Ric Felix (aka Ricky Godinez and later billed as Ricky G). While the four-piece experienced relatively minor press coverage and no chart success on these shores, the quartet managed minor hits in the States. Despite their relatively tepid acclaim, Rebel has never given up his goal of superstardom. The 32-year-old may have been out of the spotlight for the majority of his post boyband career, but he is determined to cash in on his teenage stardom and credible connections as he launches his latest project.

While it would be easy to write Rebel off as just another wannabe comeback, his quirky, colourful image and potent pop sound set him aside from the fodder. But before we turn our attentions to the present day, it seems only just to re-acquaint ourselves with his formative period. Clearly proud of his early days, he excitedly explains, “The highest point in my life has been the day we got signed to Madonna’s label, Maverick Records. At the time Epic/Sony was just sitting on the album. Maverick came in and bought us from Epic and released our record in time to join Britney Spears on her Oops, I Did It Again Tour. Being on tour with Britney, working under Madonna’s label, and having the second most added record in the US (‘Can I Get Your Number’ – No Authority) was definitely the highlight of my boyband days.”

‘I was only 15 years old and I was already friends with Michael Jackson, signed to his label and touring Europe. My life was a whirlwind of press, photo shoots and performances. We even released our début album in Neverland Ranch. It was and still is the life I’ve always wanted.’ While to the outsider the No Authority whirlwind may sound like a dream, it was more of a star-studded storm. For all the glorious connections and awe-inspiring talents that Rebel found himself in the company of, the pressure to succeed was immense. ‘It was difficult being told what to do, though, by the label and management. I’ve never been a person who likes following the rules.’

I’ve gotten many doors shut in my face and loads of empty promises, but here I am today, still working, creating, and inspiring new fans.

For all the fun and frolics, there was a downside to the short-lived celebration by the US media. As with many a failed popstar, once the dizzying lights fade, what is left is simply a shell of the driven, determined talent who had got caught up in their own hype. A humble Rebel bravely admits, ‘When the group ended, I went into a depression. I sort of lost my identity. I had to fight my way back to get where I am today. I’ve gotten many doors shut in my face and loads of empty promises, but here I am today, still working, creating, and inspiring new fans. I can’t stop because being an entertainer is my destiny.’ Having never lost his determination or talent, Rebel successfully fought his inner demons and pacified the internal questions, Ricky Rebel returned to the scene, but this time ensured that he had a firm grip of the reigns.

Despite his independent approach, Rebel is fully aware that re-entering the spotlight will be met immediately with comparisons to his teenage career. The reality is something he appears entirely nonchalant about, ‘At this point I wouldn’t mind being compared to my earlier work, but to be quite frank, the only thing that would be considered ‘my work’ in that pop group would be my vocals and the choreography for our live shows. I was only allowed, by the label, to write one song on one of the albums. I got to help with some vocal arrangements here and there, but that’s about it. I am proud of the vocals I did, though. I literally would spend hours in the studio doing all the background parts because I am so fast.’ While there is a clear pride about the part he played with No Authority, Rebel is not someone who is unable to see the shortcomings. Having learnt many a worthwhile lessons from the experience, he continues by explaining just how his own project differs. ‘The label wanted only name writers like Rodney Jerkins, who’s worked with Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, to write and produce our first album. The music I make now is 100% ‘my work’, being that I write it, produce it, sing it, and perform it live. There are no strings attached to me. I am truly an independent artist, Self-manufactured. I am my own manager, publicist and booking agent. I would be the happiest person on the planet if the UK embraced me and my music. I love the UK.’

Adamantly he announces, ‘My goal still has not changed. I want to be my version of the greatest entertainer the world has ever known,’ before the real question of his current output comes to the fore. Having been awarded Independent Artist Of The Year at the RAWards, Rebel is an artist who both excites and engages. An artist with a message and a creative flair, who has learnt the hard way that sometimes you have to just push to the extreme in order to stand out in an overcrowded discipline. In his own words, ‘I am a dynamic artist. I am a dramatic artist. I am a deep/sensitive artist. I am a flamboyant artist. I am a sexy artist. I am a fun artist. I am a freaky artist. But most of all, I am the best at being Ricky Rebel. There is no one out there quite like me.’

I hate that kids kill themselves for being gay. I want to change all that and prove that you can be gay and highly successful in any career path you choose

While his current single ‘Manipulator’ explores his own experiences within a challenging industry, he is insistent that he is far from motivated purely by personal gain. Through the re-telling of his own trials and tribulations, he believes he can connect with others. While he notes, ‘I have a purpose to help the LGBT community, especially gay teens. I want them to love who they are. I hate that kids kill themselves for being gay. I want to change all that and prove that you can be gay and highly successful in any career path you choose,’ it is clear that he is aware that his experiences are not purely related to the LGBT community. ‘Manipulator’ is an incessant earworm that manages to cover victimisation in a non-throwaway manner. As our conversation draws to a close, Rebel confirms, ‘It’s a common theme in many peoples lives. We want to be loved, but we have to sometimes disconnect from the people we love the most if the relationship becomes toxic so that we can discover a new possibility. That is what I have had to do over and over in my life. Like a cat, I always end up on my feet because I turn to music. That’s ultimately what I want to do for my fans. My message is this: Rebel the darkness, shine your light. I want to heal people through music.’

To find out more about Ricky Rebel simply visit www.rickyrebelrocks.com or follow him on Twitter (@RickyRebelRocks)

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music-review

Singles Of The Week (14 January 2013)

With January well under way now, there’s no turning back from 2013. Just last week, this year’s BRIT nominations were announced so the music calendar is starting off on a high. Back to this week and we have a fresh crop of music releases for your perusal. In the mix this week is the return of American rapper 50 Cent who has teamed up again with his mentor Eminem, as well as bringing in the vocal talents of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine. Completing the line-up are three UK bands: electro pop duo Monarchy whose latest single features burlesque star Dita Von Teese, Reading-based indie rockers Teleman, and finally London-based band Plastique.

‘Disintegration (featuring Dita Von Teese)’ by Monarchy (Rating: **)

Reviewed by Scott McMullan

It’s hard to get really invested in a single like ‘Disintegration’, the latest offering from the dynamic Electro duo of Monarchy. On the one hand it has an effective hook which manages to draw you in, it has an elegant melody, and it even has a gimmick with the inclusion of sultry vixen Dita von Teese. However, on the other hand it never seems to get any better than being merely mediocre, and left us thinking that this moody-yet-erotic little track had less impact than particularly good lift music.

It’s not that we’re not a fan of this kind of music, and Monarchy has always delivered very well consistently, however when you examine ‘Disintegration’ more closely it’s a little less than thrilling. The melody starts off strong and had a rich enveloping flavour that seemed to promise of something unique and special on the way. Unfortunately, the opening seemed to drag on for far too long, which left us in a state of anticipation with no pay off.

The inclusion of Dita Von Teese in the music was a good gamble, and the burlesque star was even able to add a terrific mix of glamour and sexual energy to the proceedings. The problem though is that she just doesn’t have quite enough ‘va va voom’ in her to save this rather stark track from being decidedly forgettable. We were also disappointed when we realised just how heavily distorted von Teese’s voice was which made her sound almost like a digital radio on the blink. Ultimately it is a just a waste of something which could have been good, and left us wondering why they bothered to use Dita von Teese at all if we couldn’t not recognise her even remotely in the delivery.

‘Disintegration’ isn’t a bad track, it just doesn’t have enough to make it stand out against a wealth of much better and more enthralling songs on the market right now. It does however have a decent elemental energy to it that manages to enthrall you, even if it looses you quickly by never really going anywhere. In some ways it almost felt like a track you hear on the come down after a good night out. It’s relaxing while at the same time dripping with a strong disco beat which makes you want to mellow out and reflect on an evening’s misadventures. However there are far better songs that you can listen to for that, and as such this offering from Monarchy has left us feeling a little bit cheated.

While there are a couple of good points that make ‘Disintegration’ feel interesting, they are outweighed by the bad points which make you wonder where the last few minutes went, and kicking yourself for wasting them. Better luck next time Monarchy!

Download the single now from Amazon or iTunes.

 

‘Cristina’ by Teleman (Rating: ****)

Reviewed by Jeremy Williams

After spending almost a decade trying to break into the ‘big time’, Reading’s indie rockers Pete & The Pirates decided to hang up their hats earlier in 2012. While Pete Hefferan now fronts The 3.1419 and proved his vocal dexterity on Dan Le Sac’s supreme début solo album, Space Between The Words, former lead vocalist Thomas Sanders has remained in cahoots with Jonny Sanders and Pete Cattermoul to form the understated trio Teleman. As 2013 kicks itself into gear, they unveil their suitably louche début single ‘Cristina’.

‘Cristina’ is far from an attempt at mainstream domination. With an air of the Joe Meek about it, Teleman prove themselves to be an intriguing musical tour de force. Though their fusion of guitar, drums and synth is fairly stereotypical of the teenies (the decade, not the age group), Teleman are truly distinctive.

An odd ode to a sexual experience, ‘Cristina’ is fully charged with lyrical wonder and musical intrigue. A real slow burner, each listen adds depth to its immediate beauty. ‘Cristina’ may not surge to the top of the charts, but it will certainly leave an impressive mark on everyone who has the pleasure to discover it.

All in all, ‘Cristina’ is a tempting slice of nuanced pop that deserves your immediate attention.

Download the single now from Amazon or iTunes.

 

‘A Paper Cut From A Paper Kiss’ by Plastique (Rating: **)

Reviewed by Jake Basford

With a Courtney Love feel, Plastique give us their first single of 2013 – ‘A Paper Cut From A Paper Kiss’ – and it’s strangely appealing, in an almost retro, 90s rock way.

Opening with just vocals and bass, it feels very stripped back, until it builds as the song moves into the chorus, with added drums and synth. The guitar solo at the bridge is very well done, hinting at Muse as an influence. Lyrically, this is a very confusing song, with the only theme really shining through being that of an age-related discontent. Whether it’s a statement of a political nature, or an honest appraisal of feelings towards aging, is unclear.

This song is that melancholic feeling you get about half-way through any long-term project – the end is in sight, but you can’t get excited about it because it is a long way off, and you are in too deep to walk away so you have to just keep ploughing on, hoping that something will come along that will make the situation better or nicer.

Maybe that’s what is meant by, ‘I’m 29 and full of s***’, with regard to the above. We’re unsure.

It’s a good song, but definitely not an upbeat song. If you aren’t in a happy place and are looking for something to throw you off, this may do the trick. Then again there are those who see beauty in pieces of music like this, so we aren’t here to judge their taste.

For right now, however, we have enough depression this week with starting work again after the holidays and what we need right now is something cheerful with a bassline to make us boogie, and a beat that gets us moving. So, sorry Plastique – wrong time to be releasing this, we feel.

Download the single now from Amazon or iTunes.

 

‘My Life’ by 50 Cent ft. Eminem & Adam Levine (Rating: ** )

Reviewed by Ben Kelly

It’s been ten years since 50 Cent topped the BBC Sound of 2003 poll, and as he prepares to release his fifth album, you’d be forgiven for having completely missed three or four of them. Despite all of his albums certifying Gold, he’s struggled to remain relevant in the mainstream, and in the UK in general. After coming to prominence off the back of his relationship with Eminem (and his infamous ‘shot nine times’ story), he’s back with the real Slim Shady himself, who features alongside Adam Levine on this track.

It’s always a weak effort when a lead single features other artists – especially on a track like this, where the Maroon 5 frontman will stand out with his distinctive vocals. Musically, this track doesn’t take us into any new territory either. It’s little more than a repeated drum loop, which could easily have been lifted from Jay Z’s album-before-last. The star performance is Eminem’s rap – the centrepiece of the song, delivered like a recitative with complex rhythms and rhymes – which is a reminder of the lyrical genius of a man who is preparing to take to the stage again himself this year. Unfortunately for 50 Cent, it sounds like he’s the one ‘featuring’ on this track, as opposed to his guest performers. A decade after being named the ‘Sound of 2003′, he’s unlikely to make much of an impact with tracks like this in 2013.

Download the single now from Amazon or iTunes.

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So So Gay predicts the 2013 BRIT Award winners

British Breakthrough Act

Alt J
Ben Howard
Jake Bugg
Jessie Ware
Rita Ora

As has been the case over the past decade, the girls sweep up at the BRITS, and we predict this one will be a close call between the two London ladies here. Although Jessie Ware’s momentum has grown hugely from an underground buzz in 2012 to that of a household name, Rita Ora should secure this one.

British Female

Amy Winehouse
Bat for Lashes
Emeli Sandé
Jessie Ware
Paloma Faith

Considering Amy Winehouse bagged this prize (her only BRIT) in 2007, they won’t feel compelled to give her this posthumous prize. Jessie Ware isn’t big enough yet to win this, and it would be a considerable triumph for Paloma Faith to earn it too. It’s almost a given that Emeli Sandé will take this prize, considering how she has taken up the British female baton after Adele’s 21 success.

British Group

Alt J
Mumford and Sons
Muse
One Direction
The xx

In 2012, One Direction have been the most successful group commercially – provoking a Beatlemania style response in the US –  but The xx would be the popular alternative choice. Given their own international success this year, and their musical credibility, we predict that Mumford and Sons could be the happy medium winner here.

British Live Act

Rolling Stones
Coldplay
Mumford and Sons
Muse
Vaccines

This could go to the Rolling Stones – for old time’s sake – but based on the strength of their Mylo Xyloto tour in 2012, proving their unrivalled skill for stadium shows, Coldplay should get this one.

British Male

Ben Howard
Calvin Harris
Olly Murs
Richard Hawley
Plan B

Much credit has to go to Olly Murs for his success touring with One Direction, hosting the Xtra Factor, beating Girls Aloud to number one, and being a generally all-round nice bloke. Plan B has had a great year too, with the acclaimed Ill Manors. But as with Mark Ronson in 2008, we predict this prize will go to a man who has had a successful year as a producer – Calvin Harris.

Global Success

Mumford and Sons
Adele
One Direction

Adele doesn’t really need any more awards – with the Academy Award practically already on its way – and it looks as though One Direction may lose out elsewhere in the show, so this special award is probably something of a consolation prize to congratulate the boys, and appease their die-hard fan base.

British Producer

Damon Albarn
Jake Gosling
Paul Epworth

Although Paul Epworth made the incredible ‘Skyfall‘ for Adele this year, this is more likely to go to Jake Gosling, a seasoned producer who, last year, was the man behind the music for Ed Sheeran, One Direction and Paloma Faith.

British Single

Adele, Skyfall
Alex Clare, Too Close
Coldplay + Rihanna, Princess of China
Rita Ora/DJ Fresh, Hot Right Now
Emeli Sandé, Next To Me
Florence+ the Machine, Spectrum
James Arthur, Impossible
Jessie J, Domino
Labrinth ft. Emeli Sandé, Beneath Your Beautiful
Olly Murs, Troublemaker
Rita Ora, RIP
Rizzle Kicks, Mama Do The Hump
Robbie Williams, Candy
Rudimental, Feel the Love
Stooshe, Black Heart

This long list will probably come down to ‘Skyfall’, ‘Next To Me’, ‘Domino’, ‘R.I.P.’ and ‘Mama Do The Hump’. Although ‘Skyfall’ could be a close competitor, this one looks set for Jessie J, considering she missed out on her nominations last year, and that Domino was the biggest selling on the list – also boasting over 100 million views on YouTube.

International Female

Rihanna
Alicia Keys
Cat Power
Lana del Rey
Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift has made huge gains in the British mainstream in 2012, and Lana del Rey has continued to secure her music and style on the airwaves and magazine covers. But having beaten off Beyoncé and Lady Gaga to win in 2011 and 2012, we see no reason why this won’t complete a hat trick for Rihanna.

International Group

Alabama Shakes
Black Keys
Fun
Killers
The Script

The Script have had a bit of a revival following Danny’s appearance on The Voice, but this one is set to belong to Fun.

International Male

Bruce Springsteen
Frank Ocean
Gotye
Jack White
Michael Bublé

Although he’s the least likely to win, Michael Bublé outsells the others in this category massively, and is a commercial favourite. Frank Ocean is the big name to drop at the moment, following the critical success of Channel Orange, he looks set to clean up at the Grammys. But considering the success of his comeback album, Wrecking Ball,and his UK tour last summer, this one should go to the legendary Bruce Springsteen.

British Album

Alt J
Emeli Sandé
Mumford and Sons
Paloma Faith
Plan B

This is the big one. The cream of the crop. The one that everyone cares about. There’s a sliver of possibility that this might go to Mumford and Sons, but considering it’s the best selling album of the year, and has been promoted like a global religion, this one is most likely going to be the finale of wins for Emeli Sandé.

The BRIT Awards will be held on 20th February at the O2 Arena, London.

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music-review

Introducing… Mykki Blanco

The most thrilling hip-hop mixtape of 2012 came not from A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar or Azealia Banks, but from a 6’3 transvestite rapper named Mykki Blanco. The ‘teenage female rapper’ persona of Michael Quattlebaum Jr, Blanco is where Marilyn Manson, Madonna, and Missy Elliott all meet. On Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss she plays with the juxtaposition of rap’s hyper-masculinity and the overt flamboyance of Queer culture. In such a short space of time and a handful of tracks, Blanco has carved out a recognizable sound and a clear space for herself in today’s hip-hop scene.

Mykki Blanco is vicious. Her verses are aggressively barked over clamoring, post-apocalyptic beats. Blanco is worlds apart from the diluted club sounds of top40 hip-hop or the hazy, drugged-out electronica of today’s rapper du jour. Blanco instead often sounds almost Industrial, and at times her work verges far closer to shock-rock than hip-hop. On early tracks like ‘Head is a Stone’ and ‘Join My Militia (Nas Gave Me a Perm)’, Blanco growls like a Riot Grrl. ‘Stone’ finds Blanco’s echoed vocals snarling over a barrage of industrial drums that sound far more intimidating than the threats of any of hip-hop’s gangsters. On ‘Militia’ her vocals are a bit more Minaj, but she weaves a love story about the Taliban over an eerie, stuttering beat and affirms that Nas ’gave [her] a perm’ to welcome her to hip-hop. It’s more exciting than an entire army of Minaj’s personas.

A track like ‘Wavvy’ comes in stark contrast to Blanco’s prior punk-rock sound. It’s a master class in modern hip-hop, showing true commercial viability for an artist as perplexing and indefinable as Mykki. Producer Brenmar offers up an electronic loop as Blanco promises to annihilate her competition and defy expectations; ‘Oh this fag can rap? Yeah, they say it, they listening!’ She’s easily as aggressive as any of the boys, but drops lines about ‘dick-riding’, Maybelline and praying to Destiny’s Child. In the video, she originally appears as Quattlebaum, bare-chested and macho. Half-way through she reappears, still naked to the waist, but now donning a flowing wig, bejewelled underwear and a pair of heels. Blanco is often at her best on these more straightforward rap tracks where she proves that she can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of hip-hop’s current in-crowd. In interview she’s said that ‘gay men invented swag’ and Mykki, for one, luxuriates in it. On her latest single, ‘Kingpinning (Ice Cold)’, she growls verses about her posse: ‘I roll with all types / real niggas, real dykes / white boys with them yarmulkas / model chicks with a million followers,’ and promises that, ‘if you think you fast life / I’m about to pass you.’

As hip-hop’s own version of The New Normal, Blanco is vocal about her distaste for the idea of ‘Queer Rap’, preferring to present herself as an entertainer, rather than a gay movement. What Blanco does brilliantly is blur boundaries (both visual and aural) in a stifling, media created sub-genre. Take sexuality out of the equation and you still have a New York poet delivering spoken-word rhymes in the style of a punk rocker over a hip-hop beat. She has no connection to Ball culture and is quick to point out ‘no, I do not vogue! It seems that hip-hop may be too simple a label for Mykki. On ‘Mendecino California’ she harks back to her lo-fi performance art days. She presents herself as an ‘oracle of the Goddess’ who has been dropped on a Californian freeway. She announces she is a terrorist with killer lip-gloss and killer legs, on her way to destroy Beverley Hills. It’s thrilling, but not something for the average hip-hop fan.

Blanco should not be dismissed merely as a member of New York’s so-called ‘Queer Rap’ movement, but embraced as part of rap music as a whole. Somewhat obtuse, but with a flair for a cutting couplet and nods to a multitude of genres, Mykki Blanco is easily one of the most exciting rising stars in the rap world on her own merits.

Mykki Blanco will be performing at Birthdays in Dalston on Tuesday 29 January. Tickets, priced at just £7, are available now from Bird On The Wire.

Mykki Blanco’s mixtape, Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss is available to download for free from her official wesbite.

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music-review

Charlotte Church announces EP ‘TWO’

Charlotte Church proved herself the unlikely critics choice of 2012. Having been written off as a has-been, the Welsh songstress, once hailed as the ‘Voice Of An Angel’, had let her halo slip during her tempestuous teens, but all that changed in 2012 with the unveiling of the first in her series of five exploratory EPs – ONE. Far from predictable pop, or a return to her operatic routes, Church’s determined effort was a delicious slice of ethereal honesty.

Instead of being slammed and panned, Church’s release was heaped with unanimous praise. While references were inevitably made to her earlier efforts, the focus centred on her unusual path selection. Instead of playing for public appraisal, she instead released a statemented EP full of artistic integrity. Hailing comparisons to the well respected Bjork, Florence Welch and Tori Amos, Church hit the road and once again proved riotously popular in her new direction and sound.

As Christmas arrived, Jonathan Ross invited Church to début her latest single, and initial offering from the recently announced second EP – TWO. ‘Glitterbombed’ once again left audiences astounded. The precocious prodigy turned troublesome teen had flowered into a sensational powerhouse of artpop.

While Church is States-bound for SXSW, she is clearly relishing creative control of her career as she looks forward to the release of TWO on 4 March.

For those who live in Wrexham, there is one added bonus: Ms Church will be playing ‘Focus Wales’ on 25 April. You lucky souls!

‘Glitterbombed’ is available to download now from Amazon and iTunes.

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music-review

Nerina Pallot announces Lonely Valentine Club EP and tour

Nerina Pallot will release her Lonely Valentine Club EP on February 4, ahead of a UK tour of the same name. The Brit Award and Ivor Novello-nominated singer will take a brief hiatus from writing and recording her forthcoming fifth studio album to grace some beautiful UK venues with her songs as part of the ‘Lonely Valentine Club’ tour.

The Lonely Valentine Club EP will be made available as a digital download, as well as a limited edition physical EP, which will only be available at the February tour dates. The EP will include Nerina’’s unique take on CeCe Peniston’’s ‘‘Finally’’, alongside four original tracks.

Anyone who has seen Nerina Pallot will tell you that she is one of the most engaging live female artists in the UK today – a secret and unique talent. If you’’re feeling sad and lonely, or if you simply love hearing exquisitely crafted pop songs beautifully performed in intimate venues, make a date with Nerina’s ‘Lonely Valentine Club’ tour below.

Nerina Pallot is a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hailing from Jersey. Her most recent album, Year of The Wolf, was released in 2011, received glowing reviews from Mojo, The Sunday Times, The Guardian and The Sun, ‘Album of the Week’ at Radio 2, as well as spawning three massive airplay hits. The album showed why Nerina is one of the UK’’s finest talents, having also contributed songs to other artists’ releases, including Kylie Minogue (Nerina wrote the title track ‘Aphrodite’ and single ‘Better Than Today’ for Aphrodite). Nerina’s fifth studio album will be released later in 2013.

February Tour dates:

Friday 8 February – Arlington Arts Centre

Saturday 9 February – St George’s Bristol

Monday 11 February – Islington Assembly Hall

Wednesday 13 February – Manchester Royal Northern College

Thursday 14 February – Edinburgh Pleasance Theatre

Saturday 16 February – Stockton Arc

Sunday 17 February – Birmingham Glee Club

Tickets for the Lonely Valentine Club tour can be ordered from Ticketmaster and Live Nation.

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music-review

Album Review: Ke$ha – Warrior

Ke$ha has always been an artist that has divided music audiences. Bursting on to the scene in 2009 as the featured artist on Flo-Rida’s number one single, ‘Right Round’, and then releasing her ubiquitous début single, ‘Tik Tok’, the artist is well-known for her excessive use of Auto-Tune and her floor-filling beats. Having now released her second studio album, Warrior, is Ke$ha sticking to her guns or trying something new?

Die-hard fans of ‘trash queen’ Ke$ha won’t be disappointed with this album. Sticking to what she does best, album opener and title track ‘Warrior’ is a slight progression from the stinking fabulous ‘Cannibal’. ‘We were born to break the doors down / Fighting till the end / It’s something that’s inside of us / It’s how we’ve always been’ she bellows over her standard pounding,  Europop beats. Arguably her best track to date, ‘Die Young’ follows. Ke$ha continues to be ground-breaking and vibrant, here starting off with a seductive acoustic guitar, and then building to the throbbing, catchy chorus. Second single, ‘C’mon’ continues the catchy theme with its animated, synth-soaked chorus.

Dr Luke (of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream fame to name just one of his achievements) is very much apparent on this album, with ‘Thinking Of You’ and ‘Crazy Kids’ to single out just two tracks that have his sound stamped on them. ‘Thinking Of You’ is a mid-tempo, man-hating, electro track, and ‘Crazy Kids’ is a blend of dub-dance and acoustic-pop, with a loud-and-proud ‘Miss Independent’ kind of flavour. If chosen as future singles, we could see both easily landing in the Top 10, being commercial yet  original at the same time. ‘Love Into The Light’ also pleases with its airy, retro feel.

Ke$ha does seem to grow up a tiny bit with this release though.  Trying to mature yet continuing to keep a Budweiser filled cup in her hand, Ke$ha includes some impressive ballads on Warrior. There’s ‘Wonderland’, which has a vaguely jazz-influenced feel, and the brilliant, slightly dub-influenced ‘Supernatural’, which both suggest that this artist doesn’t need to rely on Auto-Tune quite so much.  A rock influence has also driven some tracks on Warrior, with the slightly crazy but just-about-works duet with Iggy Pop, ‘Dirty Love’. It’s trashy, yet somehow still slightly soulful – hearing is believing with this one.

Ke$ha is a prime example of the saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. She knows exactly what to do to seduce her fans and leave them with a big, dance-soaked smile on their faces. Continuing to surprise, however, with some stand-out vocal moments and impressively fun tunes, this album is a great successor to her previous efforts. Minus one or two less memorable tracks, Warrior is near pop perfection.  On the deluxe version, be sure to check out ‘Last Goodbye’, which arguably should have been included on the standard collection.

Go Get It: ‘Die Young’ / ‘Last Goodbye’ / ‘Supernatural’

Forget It: ‘Only Wanna Dance With You’

 

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music-review

Introducing… Nadia Nair

Just as us Brits can be relied upon to complain about the weather even when it’s season appropriate, those talented Swedes are usually a safe bet when it comes to producing magnificent pop music. This has caused them to become the world’s third largest music exporters, behind only ourselves and the USA.

Step forward the latest artist to join the mighty Swedish pop army. Nadia Nair is a fresh-faced 24-year-old from Gothenburg, and has been pursuing her musical dream since the age of four. Being born to a Swedish father and a Malaysian mother gave her the privilege of speaking fluent Swedish and English. It became evident to Nadia’s friends and family that she was meant for the limelight, though she started her musical journey, like many other children, through the violin. However, she felt more inclined to pursue her singing, and at 15 years old Nadia decided it was time to focus solely on her own music.

What followed were years of trial and error. She packed her bags and travelled to Stockholm to follow her dream, but her collaborations didn’t bring her to the musical heights she expected. Nadia felt defeated and retreated to the countryside of her childhood home on the west coast where she locked herself away for a year. Being close to her childhood haunts and instruments brought new songs and energies to life, and when embarking on the next journey in the summer of 2012, she finally met her musical soul-mate in the shape of songwriter and producer Victor Rådström. Together they have designed the soundtrack to Nadia’s musical dreams. Nair and Rådström are currently writing and producing her forthcoming EP, set for an early 2013 release and including Nair’s fabulous début single, ‘Bon Voyage’ (embedded at the end of this post).

She’s been on the radar of several publishers and record-companies in Sweden for a couple of years, but turned them all down because at the time she didn’t feel she had found the right sound and expression for her music. Sweden’s biggest music magazine, Gaffa, wrote that Nadia is an artist to keep your eyes and ears open for. With her own, very individual vocal style, Nadia Nair fearlessly weaves together many diverse influences blending rock, soul, western pop, classical music and a wide range of ethnic and folk sources. It certainly generates an emotive and striking sound.

Nair has a mesmerising tone with a rich lower register that sets her apart from many of her contemporaries. When combined with the marvellously polished production by producer Rådström, it becomes clear that the pair are a match made in musical heaven. If ‘Bon Voyage’ is indicative of the quality of the material the duo are creating for Nair’s début EP, then we don’t mind saying now that it’s sure to be a musical highlight of 2013.

For more information visit Nadia’s Facebook and SoundCloud pages.

Bon Voyage is available to download now from Amazon and iTunes.

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music-review

Album Review: Blur – Parklive

2012 has certainly been the year for boosting national pride. First there was the spectacle of the Diamond Jubilee, which was followed by the inspiring Olympics where the world watched on as British talent shone on the international stage. Though the sports stars were without doubt the main attraction, entertainment was equally high on the agenda. Having wowed with an unforgettable opening ceremony that read as a Who’s Who of British Entertainment (even if Sir Cliff Richard was oddly missing from proceedings), the lacklustre closing ceremony felt, by comparison, somewhat of a hotchpotch. But thankfully, the all-star cast of said lacklustre closing ceremony were far from the last act to grace the Olympic celebrations, as one of Britain’s best ever bands – Blur – honoured the event with a closing ceremony in Hyde Park. The sold-out event has unsurprisingly been transformed into a 5-disc release, just in time for Christmas. So, is it worth all the fuss?

Blur, whose career has spanned three decades, easily fit under the title ‘Best Of British’. While the troupe have had more than their fair share of commercial acclaim, the Goldsmith’s Graduates have displayed a flair for the avant-garde over the last 20 years. The move has ensured that their back catalogue is anything but boring, as they take in a wealth of styles and sounds. This ensures that any set that celebrates the retrospective is diverse and engaging. The Olympics Closing Ceremony Celebration is no exception.

Arguably, chatty frontman Damon Albarn is far from on finest vocal form. Clearly relishing his expansive audience, he often relies on showmanship and audience interaction, with his own vocal washed out by the scream-along on many of Blur’s biggest hits. However, this does not detract from the album’s appeal, simply adding an overwhelming ‘I wish I was there’ element to the mix.

With every one of Blur’s seven stellar studio albums visited during the evening, it is fair to say that everyone from the die-hard to passing fan will find something worth their while. Though there are questionable setlist features – notably ‘Trimm Trabb’ – the highlights are not necessarily the more predictable numbers. While the audience lap-up the Phil-Daniels-featuring ‘Parklife’ and riot-inducing ‘Song 2′, it is the touching sing-along that is ‘Tender’ and the often-overlooked frenzy ‘Popscene’ that steal the show.

Parklive is essentially a retrospective celebration of one of Britain’s most innovative pop groups ever. The fact it simultaneously celebrates a great year in contemporary Britain is just an added bonus.

Go Get It: ‘Tender’

Forget It: ‘Trimm Trabb’

Parklive is available from Amazon and iTunes.

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music-review

Exclusive: EP Review & Free Download: Tunde Olaniran – The Second Transgression

2012 is the year So So Gay discovered Tunde Olaniran. We stumbled upon his unique work earlier this year, and introduced him to you as someone you should know about. We were then fortunate enough to interview the Michigan-based singer-songwriter. His individual eclectic style has earned him a whole load of attention over the past twelve months; so, it was with great excitement that we were offered the opportunity to get a sneak preview of his upcoming EP The Second Transgression, the second instalment of a five-part series.

Both Olanrian’s début album, Infinite Modulation, and his last EP, The First Transgression, were striking in their mix of musical styles and socially narrative lyrics. The Second Transgression sees the artist hone his signature sound even more flawlessly, with a coherent set of five tracks, each of which has its own flavour, while containing a binding thread which makes the tracks instantly recognisable as Tunde Olaniran’s work.

Opening track ’2.0′, which features Jonny 5, showcases Olaniran’s velvet vocals over a simple rhythm on the verses, before a more elaborate chorus made up of Knightrider-like synths and a punchy beat kicks in. It sets the scene for the brilliance to come.

‘Autonomous’ is essentially a break-up denial anthem – a hymn to trying to make oneself believe that you are ‘over’ the person you have recently left; ‘I don’t still love you / I don’t still care / I won’t admit it / But in my dreams you’re still there’. The lyrics may seem banal in their simplicity but it is precisely by not overworking the sentiment and instead combining it with a killer guitar-tinged riff that Olaniran scores a hit. His vocal delivery drips in emotional intensity and adds to the overall effect of the track.

Track 3, ‘Sun Goes Down’, begins with a Latin beat before the synth and bass is cranked up, layered with clapping and, again, electric guitar. Olaniran matches the ominous sound of the heavy instrumentation with lyrics that tell of multiple identities and paranoia; ‘Don’t point over there / It’s because you never like what you see in the mirror’. Although there are not many laughs to be had on the track, it’s exquisitely executed.

‘Kill Or Be Killed’ sees the darker production of the previous numbers stripped back a little, revealing a dance influence, the jubilant vibe of which collides deliciously with the stark warning behind the title (‘Love kills, love kills / You said you wouldn’t hurt me but you did’). This bittersweet contradiction makes ‘Kill Or Be Killed’ the most radio-friendly track on the EP and one certain to get your feet tapping along in agreement.

The EP comes to a close with ‘Brown Boy’ – perhaps the song which reflects most vividly the aforementioned social nous demonstrated on Olaniran’s previous oeuvres. Addressing some of the more sombre stereotypes and falsehoods associated with people of colour, he manages to blend a police chief’s retirement speech with samples of Chinese school children singing to create an extremely catchy number with a message; ‘I’m every single thing you think of me / I’m a sinner, killer, drug dealer, refugee’. The commentary is not lost on us.

Overall, this is the most coherent set of tracks Tunde Olaniran has put together in his fledgling career so far. This could so easily be the work of an established commercial act, such is the high quality of the EP’s production and composition. We’ve said it before and we will happily say it again: this ‘brown boy’ should be huge.

You can download ’Brown Boy’ for free hereThe Second Transgression EP is released on 21 December.