Thursday, 27 October 2011

Paris Hilton - Paris (2006)

Bitchy, talentless, insincere, superficial, deeply vapid and deeply penetrated, the debut album from Paris Hilton benefits all such truths, and whilst her feelings go no deeper than her vagina, her KY-breath vocals really show off what money can buy.  Scaring the wormy shit out of Jessica Simpson, Haylie Duff, and Ali Lohan, the slut-pop bar was raised to impressive new lows. Like crabs, some of these songs are a bitch to get rid of. Hilton took time out from standing in clubs and 5 years later the world is still in her debt (just look at Greece).

With vocals that sound stickier than cloths found under the beds of teenage boys, Paris manages to be at the centre of a Billy Steinberg ballad that is actually worthy of all his biggest 80s hits.  It's not impossible to imagine Cyndi, The Bangles or even Madonna all having an iconic 80s #1 smash with it.  Oh, the song is called Heartbeat, which she says beats purely for the thrill of hearing her latest jock "cum" whilst sounding like her mouth is full of it.  A delightful image: her designer vagina must spin fluids like a washing machine.  If that doesn't sound delicious enough, the heiress elsewhere sings/opens-her-piehole about more muscle-ripped jocks having sword fights in her gob (maybe the song is in tribute to Veronica Sawyer from the film Heathers?). 
Alcazar famously declined Paris's offer to record a duet called Camel-Toe At The Discotheque 
The Kelly Clarkson climate of the moody Jealousy is almost too deliberate to ring true, but the years that have passed since the tabloid-drama of the singer's fall out with Nicole Ritchie has removed this issue.  Engagingly glum, it is also restraint, and Paris chooses a careful and poised delivery to add just the right amount of disdain.  Having close friends be jealous of you is actually a horrible experience.  Some people just don't want to be helped.  You just need to let go.  How can you stay friends with someone who wants you to be as miserable as they are?  Paris handles the track with atypical class and persuasion of a different kind than her usual references to consistent hotness.  Not so much friends with benefits than friends with hepatitis.
Nothing sluttier on this table anyway.
The euphoric itchiness of Nothing In This World is an unexpected triumph and deserved to be more widespread than a drunk cheerleader in a changing room.  Memorably throwaway, the slickly pseudo-anthemic I Want You soars with the glossy Grease Is The Word siren-led sample, it's playfulness enough to rival Mariah's own 80s-bingeing Loverboy.

Several stand outs appear on the album, but the filler is typical Scott Storch fodder: synths ignite well enough for Turn You On, which is as self-prepping as you can imagine; the sparse opener (or arse opener depending on how you interpret the lyrics) Turn It Up is a whisper-reel for her then-catchphrases such as "I'm hot" and "yeah" (although money can't buy choruses apparently); Fighting Over Me is just a generic hip hop influenced track Paris just happens to breathe on, and she probably gives her chauffeur more consideration.

Initially going by the much better working title of Paris Is Burning, music fans were salivating for her album as far back as 2004 with the Alex G remix of Screwed.  Originally geared up to be recorded by the horrifically sibling-obscured, oblong-faced beauty Hayle Duff, Paris opted for the dryer, credible rock chug option but the Alex G edit remains the song's definitive lubrication.

Not one to turn down cock, Not Leaving Without You is one of the album's peaks.  First single Stars Are Blind is sunkissed and doesn't surrender to her club crusades for rich cock (it's the personality of the cock that counts, duh!).  Thinner than her friendships, her VOICE on Da Ya Think I'm Sexy is relatively sedate and not worth being awake for beyond pointing out how bad it is. Middle of the road-or-rehab trash.

With just enough successes seeping through the music-as-accessory club jams, the debut album from cock-magnet Paris Hilton is far more listenable than haters would think it ought to be.  It's every bit as icky, disinterested and utterly trashtastic as someone like myself wants it to be.  The only time Paris would show emotion would be if her card got declined, Paris - The Album is about feeling good and looking even more expensive.  A once in a lifetime moment in pop.

What's taken more of a beating - the drums or her...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Diva Incarnate Back To The 80s October Playlist

For me recently on a 4am girls and guitars bender: Cyndi Lauper (the fizzy acceleration of Money Changes Everything that doesn't touch the ground or the sides);   The Bangles's Going Down To Liverpool (blue-sky jangly pop par excellence, it really sets sail with their harmonies, but of course it is Debbie hear who makes it so irresistibly wistful and imaginative this time - the Susanah Hoffs spotlight was yet to be switched on);   Patty Smyth (her 1987 debut album is basically Cyndi meets Springsteen - lots of hightlights, her collaborators are in actual fact Eric Brazilian, Rob Hyman, William Wittman, Rick Chertoff, Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, so this is no surprise); the enchanting Rooms On Fire from the bewitching Stevie Nicks, and Voice of The Beehive (the fleshed out expensive chorus of Scary Kisses never fails to set my adrenaline to a high setting).    I'm also listening to the Divinyls, but it's the song Only Human On The Inside, and that was in the 90s - I always knew it as a Pretenders song (and that it was a cover), but Chrissy Amphlett's recogniseably expressive voice delivers the killer blow of the lyrics with more charm and radiance - and you need to wait for it's gentle fade out, at which point I wish it could go on for another 3 minutes itself.   I do need to mention the Go Gos, and so Our Lips Are Sealed is their bubbliest moment, Jane almost over-took it with her own Rush Hour, and Belinda's girlier efforts were rendered iconic by her voice of steel alone - the Julia Roberts of the radio.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Gloria Estefan - Miss Little Havana (2011)

Miss Little Havana is half celebration of the music Gloria Estefan grew up around, half soundtrack to falling in love again with the one you fell in love with in the first place.  Rhythm is everything and everywhere. Gloria's lyrical themes range as broad as the musical traditions she scoops from navigate are varied (Cuba, Miama, Mexico and South America to be exact).

Hair today, hair tomorrow.
Working in sync with Pharrel, and the match is magnetic, she injects so much fervor and zest that was missing from her last album.  Gloria bumps up against her man in the club on the sweat-drenched sticatto of the title track. Punctuated by precise production flourishes, Gloria gets the game going with a smart and fun lyric. Evolving steadily but expertly, it sets the pulse of the album, is exuberant and yet initially feels mild on the surface - it requires the listener to dig deep into both her rueful considerations and the rewarding texture of Pharrel's ear for detail. It's a groove that finds its power in its control and structure. The crisp, undulating and humid rhythms are enhanced by the noticeably deepened, gritty and fully-committed vocals.  The experience is sharply executed, driven by cocktails, sly dance-floor tactics and flirtatiously conceived moments of eye-brow raising humor.  With the hair and the flair, Gloria's lyrical command, grace and sheer bite is the ultimate ignition.  Once again intoxicating when the rhythm gets her.

Gloria has yet to sign on for the new franchise: Housewives of Havana.
Less is much more on the gentle romantic calm of I Can't Believe, which introduces jazzy and mellow piano riffs mixed with some understated Latin lounge aroma, which is formidable in its own right, and rendered so via Gloria's delivery of a gorgeous lyric about catching the same glimpse of another, and herself, all these years later.  This is a truly heartwarming song, and its Cuban inflection helps create an unassuming appearance that only experience could pull off to such a high standard.  A fine pick among the more emphatic contenders for album highlights. Estefan's soothing voice perfectly conveys the strain of being once mudled up in life's obstacles and now finding herself marvelling "isn't life really something?" This moments kills me. The tight rhythm section accompanying the quick step middle-eight is also really something.

The frenzied first single Wepa is a dizzying burst of sizzling attitude. Disrinct, disorientating and highly addictive, it sadly doesn't have a chance in hell of becoming a hit. The song does hit though - it hits you right in the face, if it was more in your face it would give you a rash.  At once startling, the jarring jerks and rabid visceral observations are unexpected and worth getting used to.

Proving it pays to have junk in the trunk, the album keeps peeking in the far reaches of the second half.  The album's zenith, Hotel Nacional is a hilarious standout, and Susan Lucci just won the highest accolade of her career.  Gloria's wry depiction of getting down via flirtatious rhyming is laugh out loud stuff. It's impossible not perk up at such sleek, clubccentric salsa-induced neck-snapping when the alternative is Madonna's unasked-for crotch-thrusting from her own Pharrel-favoured Give It To Me.  Hotel is one of the few songs unassisted by Pharrel, which is a testiment to how much Gloria is giving herself to the record (although the fact that it was recorded in 4 weeks is a little telling in that is has no obvious hit singles).  The point of all the silliness is that you should be moving your body, and you will be.  Whenever the intensity seems to reach a peak, the song retreats and gears up for another charge.
Hands off Gloria.
The modest salsa shuffles of HeatSay AySo GoodRight Away and Make Me Say are further consecutive hip-shakers.  Gloria gets to relax a bit and enjoy the contemporary edge that never deviates from her tradition and warm capabilities.  They have much the same flavour, but importantly have connection.  Cutting to the bone, Time Is Ticking is Reach 15 years on. With more than a hint of velvet to her vocals, where her lyrics fall into well-versed ground it is the deluxe emotional depth I'm most grateful for.  

Sweeter than the rest, Medicine is a tonic of sleek and sharp electronica that injects into the same vein as the best vintage Peter Rauhofer remixes.  I am overdosing on it.  The stoic momentum builds into a surreal unidentified pathos.  Gloria's husky and thickly-textured timbre gets hot and cold, mischievous, rebellious and caring.  The hot to trot Make My Heart Go implements a usurping blend of na na na na's with emphatic club accents, and feels slightly less authentic than Medicine, but it's equally pleasant nonetheless. Synthesizers galore make their presence known throughout the dancefloor dosages of MedicineMake My Heart Go and Hotel Nacional.  Most impressively of all, Gloria herself remains the focus: smart, vivid and in her exquisite comfort zone.  Indeed the presence of the few songs, bonus or otherwise, that are not produced by Pharrel only thickens the plot.

Because of its ten year exposure, Gloria's belated recording of Let's Get Loud isn't winning many fans, which might be due to the fact that for many it might sound a little exhausted.  It represents where she left off with Gloria! and therefore feels slightly out of place here.  A signature song for J-Lo (co-written by Estefan, but left off her own album), it wasn't even a hit and yet has became a ubiquitous reference point for Latin cross-over pop.  Estefan herself missed the so-called Latin pop heatwave of 1999, ironically led by J-Lo among others (even Geri Halliwell managed to be ready for it without knowing).  Had it been included on Gloria! these doubts would not be considered, and it would have been a sure-fire signature anthem for her at a time when she really needed it.  However, despite lacking the sheer spontaneity and flamboyant virtuosity it would have delivered back in 1998 it is a very welcome recording to finally own.  Contrived as hell, it's a classic hand-bag anthem.  10 years on, Gloria's going to different clubs where you'd get thrown out for that kind of carry on.

Joyful sounds ablaze on a dynamic return to dance.  This is a richly textured document of an original and important voice in modern music.  Miss Little Havan re-captures the bravura that made her such a potent threat in the first place. More chic than extravagant, why bother trying to be anything less?


Joan Osborne - Little Wild One (2008)

12 years after most would have remembered her, Joan Osborne re-connected, rather than re-visited, her Relish roster of collaborators and re-kindles the bluesy, ballsy soft-rock that she made her name with.  I have always been long intrigued by Osborne’s one-hit-wonder status, with her striking voice and starkly beguiling follow-up single St Teresa being especially welcome on my music players.  After Joan hit the high heavens with her ubiquitous 1996 hit single One of Us, her career didn't stop but her radio stamina seemed to end without any clear indication as to why.  For one thing, it took 5 years for her record label issues to iron themselves out for a follow-up, 2000's Ritcheous Love, to be released. After this point, Osborne has steadily released music in the form of 2002's covers set How Sweet It Is, 2006's country-tinged Pretty Little Stranger, 2007's Breakfast In Bed and finally came 2008's Little Wild One.  Presumably it was the album her label wanted her to make 10 years previously as it reunites her with her Relish regulars  of Eric Brazilian (One of Us, Billie Myers' Kiss The Rain), Rick Chertoff (Cyndi Lauper's She Bop, Sophie B. Hawkins' Right Beside You) and Rob Hyman (both Lauper's Time After Time and The Water's Edge).  These guys have long fascinated me: they have written some incredible material for female artists over the years, most of which have had huge hits and then continued with a cult following).  Boasting her enigmatic vocal authority, the record contains slightly jazzier pop-rock sounds, layered with subtle keyboards here and there, R&B-inflections, and sporadic orchestrations arriving like warm night-time breezes. Her voice is like a power-steering mechanism: her ease, energetic runs and sheer fluidity between the different forces whilst sounding modest and restrained is a thing of beauty.

Album opener Halleluja will immediately draw comparisons to One of Us, but is more of a restraint folk song than radio bait.  Sweeter Than The Rest was the album's single and it sustains a haunting sense of romance that immediate rekindles the same flame as St. Teresa or perhaps even Planets of The Universe by Stevie Nicks. Haunting ballad built on a bridge of piano keys that slightly imitate Imagine, Cathedrals is the album's biggest surprise, radiant and deeply touching. Her bracing contralto is on fine balladeering form. The soft tempo of Meet You In The Middle is full of Joan’s lilting, dulcet harmonies and even the harmonica is tuneful, even if it sounds like the theme from Roseanne.

One of my favourite tracks from last year was a gorgeous, lo-fi strummy ballad called Loser Dreamer by country queen of stoic melancholy Shelby Lynne, and Osborne gives this song a run for its money with her own haunting acoustic torch song To The One I Love.  Both tracks are pensively considering life as it passes by, musing almost stream-of-concious world-weary lyrics.  Adding soul-drenching organs, To The One I Love flourishes in every way.

The soaring dirt-kicking Rodeo is her own Everyday Is A Winding Road, built on a series of seductive and frolicking high and low vocal journeys.  Softer still, Daddy-O relies on Joan's earthy wail to ignite its yearnfully plaintive seduction.  More organs add further chills.  An isolated electric guitar riff is also welcome here.  Seeking an Indian influence in her mesmerizingly off-key introduction notes, Can't Say No could almost have been a Billie Myers song.  Can't Say No has a stronger momentum than most of the songs here and even almost has a chorus.

The overall thrust of Osborne’s vocals is something very special.  Its mystical quality, tempered with occasional steel , gives me tingles. Every song fits so well here, with songs like To The One I Love softly working their magic, and highlighted by the more purposeful Sweeter Than The Rest, cautious torch ballad Cathedrals, the sensual Can’t Say No and energetic Rodeo. The conviction to her voice adds a legitimacy to the songs that her lyrics never quite achieve on their own, but the sense of renewed vigor makes this her best album to date.  The arrangements do well to compliment her rootsy qualities without making things too glossy at the expense of sincerity.  It can be heard that there is not as much money being thrown at this record as Relish, but this overdue album finally delivers a set of songs engaging from start to finish even if they will never be as exposed to people in the same way her signature song was and remains to this day.  One criticism might be that this album is echoing Relish too much, but that album was never this melodic and cohesive.  However, Little Wild One does not merely play it safe, her haunting drawl is there, the tender moments are the result of experience and the overall effect is one of skill, assurance and a connection between the musicians writing this album alongside a vastly underrated singer who just happens to have one of the very best voices of an entire generation.


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

I Know You Wanna Say: Corona Interview

If you lived under a rock during the 90s let me tell you about the Hi-NRG Euro-disco legend of Corona: originally sung by Sandy Chambers who was locked in a cupboard for 5 years whilst the gorgeous and charismatic Brazillian model Olga De Souza, with the legs as tall as sky-crapers and the shit-gritting grin that stretched as far as the equator, fronted the act, lip-synced for her life and had everyone's eye out with her enviable dreadlocks whilst spinning round on stage in a cackling frenzy (she's famous for laughing at pretty much everything, and has actually been banned from funerals in her native Brazil and adopted home of Italy). She has been dining out on the batch of hits taken from the landmark debut album ever since (these are the slightly unknown minor worldwide hit Rhythm of The Night, the more pugnacious Baby Baby, the open-to-offers anthem Try Me Out, and the disco-drunk funk of I Don't Want To Be A Star). High ranking album tracks include the heavy demands of I Gotta Keep Dancing, When I Give My Love, I Want Your Love and Don't Go Breaking My Heart

 On the much-delayed 1998 follow-up album Walking On Music, the arrangement continued, as did their fast-forward attitude to sensitive love issues on the singles: the strident groove of Walking On Music, the sumptuous glide of The Power of Love and the energetic mayhem of Magic Touch (they were not massive hits, but continued the same rampant and euphoric euro-dance formula as before). The other track worth mentioning happens to be the best of the bunch, I Belong To You (80s), which sounds like PWL circa 1990 - it almost has the same scintillating elements as Donna Summer's This Time I Know It's For Real, only this time we knew for real she really wasn't singing.
In 2000, Olga released an album called And Me U under the alias of Corona X, but the material was slightly rock influenced and every bit as appealing to fans of their vintage style as that sounds (Diva Incarnate scored it a reasonable 6 out of 10): hidden delights included the Donna Summer-esque I Only Came To Dance, with its timeless marriage of disco yearning and plaintive exhiliration, and the single Good Love, which was accompanied by a slightly more accessible dance remix. Olga also sang all the songs herself and even sounds a bit like that faceless bird Sandy Chambers who had fled for her life by this point.

Olga continued to sporadically release one-off singles (going down a slightly Dannii Minogue-esque route if you will), with the best to comment on being the Spanish-tongued hypnotico dance jam La Playa De Sol, but it was not until last year that Corona came back with a selection of trance-identified dance-pop songs as part of an actual album campaign. It was called Y Generation and ignited the charts in Italy, reaching NUMBER ONE on the Italian itunes dance album charts (you can just imagine the stiff competition - thank goodness Lisa Scott-Lee wasn't releasing anything that week). I was a fan of this album, it kept an obsessed Corona crusader like myself fairly happy, and the seething trance temperatures of the single Angel even produced a True Blood inspired video (Olga's first promotional clip in 12 years), and was number 1 on the Diva Incarnate 'Best Singles of 2010' countdown. The 2nd single Saturday was delivered to itunes with a dollop of decadent remixes, and the final release was called My Song. Once again, the most infectious creation was left as an album track, this time a lust-fueled trance orgasm snappishly called Gimme Love (not saying please is just plain rude if you ask me).  A new song to launch a re-release of the album is on the way...

Hi Olga, thanks for agreeing to interviewed.

Following the mostly pop-rock sounds of And Me U, Y Generation was something of a return to dance music – although it also successfully pursues new sounds, was it a conscious decision to go back to your roots as it were?

Yes, because i love dance music, the dance with good melodies and so I deciced to went back to my roots

The single Angel's video seemed to be inspired by shows such as True Blood with its elements of folklore - what was the overall meaning behind it? 

[Olga did not answer this question]

You also sing a Capella different lyrics to the recorded version...

[Olga did not answer this question]

A lot of people didn't quite understand the product placement for the hair product. 

But in this case jean louis Italy just help to do my hairstyle in the video, so we just put a fast show of their products.
It took more then 3 hours to do my hairstyle in the video, so its was just a thank

The Corona project has endured many changes with regards to the machinery behind it (different producers, record labels, etc): did you ever consider giving up the name and releasing music under your own name? Olga de Souza is an amazing name...

No, I LOVE Corona. . I like changing labels and producers, but CORONA is always my name.

You have been using your own vocals for well over a decade, starting with 2000's And Me U, and I must say I absolutely love hearing it on the new album - it's so expressive and I love the cackles of laughter on Angel. It seems to have improved - is this due to practicing?

Yes, i always study and improve

Will there ever be a chance of working with original Corona songwriters and producers and songwriters ever again?

No, they are old now and i am still young . .ahhh ahhh

Are there any plans to perform, release and promote in the UK again? The UK record label
AATW seems like a good company to release Angel with.

We contated my labels in UK , there was some interest but after . . nothing happen, but we will keep pushing

What has been the success of the Y Generation album in Italy, and what other countries has it been released in?

After ITALY where we had a # 1 on I TUNES DANCE ALBUM IN ITALY , we did Germany, Austria and Swiss, Singapore, Malasya, Greece and we exported some copies in France, Benelux and many other countries.
And Angel the single, with some new remixes, will be released soon in France.

My knowledge of Italian pop is limited to the singers Alexia (Uh La La La), Gala (Tough Love, Freed From Desire and Lose Yourself In Me) and Sabrina Salerno (A Flower's Broken) - they seem to have a huge appetite for female
dance-driven music - what has been the key to Corona finding its most enduring success there?

I think the songs, ITALIAN DANCE means always good melodies, and the italian producers are perfect for the good melodies

It's very hard for international fans to keep up to date with the latest Corona news - will there be
plans to keep fans more up to date on your website?

All please look my new official you tube . . .
All the updates will be there. There will be a good news soon, with a collaboration with an important dj.

There were so many dance acts and female dance divas in the 90s - do you ever keep in touch with any?

Yes, Alexia, ice mc, Spagna are good friends

My favourite song from Y Generation is the euphoric Hi-NRG trance temperatures of Gimme Love (the productions is ecstatic and very fresh) - are there any plans to release it as a single? And will there be more videos for the project?

I am not sure Gimme Love can be a single. Thanks for your compliments.

What is your favourite song from the new album and why?

Angel and Saturday. I think we create a good groove ! and the new single ( not in the album) is hot.

Does it ever feel strange when people mention songs from the first two albums as being their favourites when you never actually sung on them? For example, I love the song I Belong To You (80s) as it is so glitzy and glossy, and also sounds like a Donna Summer song from her PWL-produced Another Time album (1989), but sadly would never expect you to perform it...

[Olga did not answer this question]

Speaking of Donna Summer, my favourite And Me U song was I Only Came To Dance, which is VERY Donna Summer. Who exactly are your musical influences, past and present?

My influence is all the 70’ disco and also the new wave of the ‘80s and of course the brasilian music.

Have you ever met Sandy Chambers, and how did the agreement to be the face of Corona come
 about, and what were your overall feelings about the arrangement over time?

We were all a big team and big friends

You have successfully fronted the Corona project for almost 20 years - without naming  names, what is the most scandalous, jaw-dropping story about another celebrity you can tell me?

Top secret.

Who is your most famous friend?

Top Secret about the most famous. . my real friends are my fans

Angel was my blog's 'Best Single of 2010' and Y Generation was an artistic triumph. What plans are next? Will you record a new album soon?

The new single . .and a new edition of Y Generation . . stay tunes. . Thank you everybody.

Thanks for your answers Olga x