安室奈美恵 (Namie Amuro) – 「Golden Touch」

This is a must-see – and must interact with – music video! Just press play and get ready for fun.

(Word to the wise: if you’re viewing this on the YouTube iPhone app, tapping might pause your video. That’s okay – just pantomime it without touching your screen.)

I’m thoroughly impressed by the style, whimsy and insane level of creativity in this video. In the past thirty-ish years, there have been many innovative music videos, but I’m just going to say it: this is the most original and modern music video since Peter Gabriel’s iconic “Sledgehammer” music video.

“Golden Touch” matches the unpredictability of “Sledgehammer”, but is a good deal less unsettling. (Am I the only one who was scared by that video as a child?)

If there’s an award for excellence in music videos (do the MTV Music Video Awards still count?), this should win, hands down. It handily beats – need I say it again? – “Bad Blood”.

I’m no J-Pop expert, but it’s hard not to notice Japanese pop music’s obsession with youth (or at least novelty) is stronger than in the U.S., where thirty, forty and even fifty-something artists on the pop charts are hardly a rarity.

In spite of Japanese pop music’s insatiable thirst for newness, Amuro’s career has spanned twenty years.

Of course, the fact that she doesn't look nearly 37 doesn't hurt.

The fact that she doesn’t look nearly 37 doesn’t hurt.

But it’s also easy to hear why Queen Namie is still on top. With its dance-pop beat and bright-and-shiny synth hook, “Golden Touch” is the perfect soundtrack to the magic happening in its music video.

Namie Amuro’s new album, _genic, is set for release on June 10th. _genic is described as having 80s dance and 90s R&B influences, but the teaser tracks available on the album’s official website seem totally modern and radio-ready. The teaser music videos suggest themes of high fashion, the art of photography and dance, dance, dance.

Try the teaser for “Stranger” on for size:

The people behind _genic are a worldwide who’s who of songwriters and producers: Zedd (Russia/Germany), David Guetta (France), Diplo (U.S.), Hook N Sling (Australia), Erik Lidbom (Sweden), Joacim “TWIN” Persson (Sweden) and SeventyEight (Sweden again) and SOPHIE (UK).

As a bonus for all of you reading this page in English (as opposed to through Google Translate) the lyrics of the songs on this album seem to be about half in English, half in Japanese.

You know, maybe Namie’s taken a page out of the Robyn playbook. Like Namie, Robyn was a pop star in the 90s – you probably remember “Show Me Love” or “Do You Know (What It Takes)”. You may not have realized they were different songs until now.

Then, at least in the U.S., Robyn disappeared in a sea of blonde pop stars

…Only to re-emerge, years later, as THIS:

BOOM! Girlfriend totally came into her own. It ruled, she ruled and she continues to rule.

Somehow I can’t see Namie wearing Robyn’s dance outfit, but I get the feeling that like Robyn, she’s blazing her own trail and loving it, and listeners are going to love it too.

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Bottom line: Namie Amuro’s “Golden Touch” will make you want to press that button, and then press the “repeat” button.

Want some more?

Galantis – Peanut Butter Jelly

Just kidding. It’s not THAT “Peanut Butter Jelly” song. 😉

Last Sunday, I caught the premiere of Taylor Swift’s new video for “Bad Blood (feat. Kendrick Lamar)“. I dig T-Swizzle and dig K-dot even harder, and actually think the remix is an improvement on the original. But that video…

Yes, it’s stylish, action-packed, chock full of cameos and even features Taylor as a redhead, but somehow…meh. It strikes me as the sort of video that was a lot more fun to make than it is to watch.

Then, this morning, I had a horrifying thought…what if “Bad Blood” becomes the song of the summer?

NO. This cannot be. And it’s not too late to change it!

Without further ado, I’d like to nominate my candidate for song of the summer:

“Peanut Butter Jelly”.

As you listen to the joyous, melodic stylings of Sweden’s own Galantis, comprised of Christian “Bloodshy” Karlsson of Miike Snow and Bloodshy & Avant and Linus Eklöw, a.k.a. Style of Eye, allow me to explain.

The song of the summer should be upbeat, happy, and lighthearted. The most recent examples are Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” (Summer 2014), a fun little slice of braggadocio with a Clueless-themed video, Robin Thicke’s flirty-verging-on-seductive “Blurred Lines” (2013), Carly Rae Jepsen’s irresistibly peppy puppy love song “Call Me Maybe” (2012) and LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem”, which is, well, THE party anthem. The list goes on.

I bet you recall most of these tunes fondly, even if you got totally sick of them at the time. They were the soundtrack to your summertime fun. Driving around with all the windows down, lounging at the shore, laughing with your friends in your shorts and flip-flops, maybe with a summery cocktail in hand…these songs are just right for these occasions.

Imagine, if you will, any of the above scenarios. Feel that fresh air and sunshine on your face, the aroma of fresh-cut grass, the ocean, or the lively scent of summer in the city. Oh yes, a whole season that’s a holiday is here, and the good times have arrived!

AND BABY NOW WE’VE GOT BAAAAAD BLOOD. YOU KNOW IT USED TO BE MAAAAAD LOVE. SO TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE DOOOONE.

How+About+No

Yeah, just no, amirite?

Now this song. THIS SONG.

Galantis_PBJ_scvisual_041315

From those first crazy little electro sounds at second ONE, it grabs you. The lyrics make no sense other than being maybe vaguely suggestive (although the song would not be inappropriate at a five-year-old’s birthday party), but they’re so much FUN! Mostly, it’s that house beat and those retro string samples that won’t quit, and don’t quit, the entire way through.

Stereogum tells me that the guys who make up Galantis are the masterminds behind Icona Pop’s “I Love It’ (which would have been a better SotS 2014 if it didn’t peak so early, imo) and Britney’s “Toxic”. This song has the same bright, shimmery, energetic vibe.

A song called “Peanut Butter Jelly” pretty much has to be quirky, and it is. I wonder if it’ll be too quirky for pop radio, but fervently hope that it’ll be that oddball track that catches on bigtime, like Lorde’s “Royals” or Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”.

You can sing along to it after one listen. It’ll make you smile, and it’ll make you dance. It’s even got one of those air horns. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s got what it takes to be song of the summer! Let’s make it happen!

IT’S PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME!!!!

Bottom line: “Peanut Butter Jelly” will make you want to spread your peanut butter jelly all over the dance floor this summer. Whatever that means.

Conrad Sewell – Hold Me Up

We’ve got something of a “jaw-dropping male singers” theme lately!

The latest addition to that list is Mr. Conrad Sewell. Like other great 21st century singers – Sam Smith, Sia and Matthew Koma, to name a few – he made a splash on a superstar DJ’s track. Check him out on Kygo’s “Firestone”:

That “we light up the world” – it gives me chills!

Odds are you haven’t heard Conrad Sewell anywhere else yet. I think we need to change that.

There’s no music video yet, so just press play and listen:

Like Olly Alexander of Years & Years, Conrad’s voice is reminiscent of a certain King of Pop. He shares MJ’s vocal power and ability to make those falsetto notes sound every bit as good as you think you sound while drunkenly singing karaoke. But seriously, he’s a vocal powerhouse.

And this song! It’s danceable, upbeat pop infused with soul and enthusiasm. It’ll put the wind in your sails.

Conrad is currently on tour opening for Ed Sheeran, which somehow makes sense even though the two singers are vocally different. Like Ed, Conrad’s also a songwriter, having written songs for other artists – including “Firestone” (see above)! His ability to not just sing but inhabit a song shines in every verse. It’s like how the best actors don’t just read the lines in the script, but become the characters they play.

It’s safe to say Conrad is one to keep on your radar. I’ll go as far as to say as he’ll be the biggest thing to come out of Australia since Iggy Azalea. But in a totally, totally different way, I assure you.

And here he is covering (dare I say improving?) Nick Jonas’s “Jealous”.  Is there anything this man can’t do?

                             He even has great hair, for chrissakes!

Craving a copious Conrad collection?

Official website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Rolling Stone says…

Idolator says…

PRI says…

Sugarscape says…

Conrad in a former life: Sons of Midnight “Fire”

(Who Is) Fancy – Goodbye

It’s a completely novel concept.  A new artist comes onto the popular music scene, but nobody knows for sure who he* is.  In the age of smartphones, social media and internet sleuths, it’s nothing short of impressive that he’s managed to pull it off.

Who Is Fancy (or just Fancy) came seemingly out of nowhere a few months ago.  The buzz is that he’s co-signed by music talent impresario Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta, best known for discovering a young female singer you may have heard of, Ms. Taylor Swift.

The song “Goodbye” is heartfelt and honest, with a compelling beat, flawless vocals and just the right amount of unique lyrics to keep it interesting.  Fancy just might be the voice pop radio needs right now.

There was a bit of speculation that Fancy might not be a completely new presence on the music scene, but perhaps a side project of an existing popular artist.  At times, his voice sounds a little like Adam Levine of Maroon 5 or Ne-Yo, but not enough to convince me that he’s an existing star’s alter ego.

In February, Fancy released not one but THREE music videos for “Goodbye”. Each follows the same sequence of events, but with different actors in the lead role and different twists.  Let’s take a look:

I love her attitude.  She’s rocking the bun and gray hoodie.  Fancy, whoever he may be, sings with the amount of feeling she shows on her face while lip-syncing.  I could almost believe she’s the real Who Is Fancy.  And she does look pretty fancy by the end of the video.  Hmmm… 🙂

I watched this one next:

At the outset, I thought, “okay, now they’re doing the same video with a slim, conventionally attractive woman.”  Not so simple!  I like how they play with gender in this version.  Yes indeed, beauty and sass come in all shapes, sizes and genders.  The change from edgy urban beauty queen to male country star by the end is amazing!

Lastly:

This one could catch you thinking, “maybe this one is the real Fancy!”  He’s arguably the most convincing lip-syncer of the three, for one.  He comes in looking like Justin Bieber, tattoos and all, but by the end of the video, he’s Bruno Mars‘ style twin.

These videos clearly present themes of image and transformation.  The fact that there are three different videos with different “singers” shows image’s mutability, and in doing so, suggests that maybe image isn’t so important.  It is, after all, the same song, no matter who’s singing it.

But who is Fancy?  As of the date of this post, only a handful of people know for sure.  In this exclusive exposé below, ten insiders reveal important details about Fancy, such as:

  • “I thought it was really good.  No bad words in [his song]!”
  • “Without a whole band and only playing the guitar, it sounded like, really big to me for some reason!”
  • “He has fancy pants.”
  • “I thought he looked like Adam Levine!”

Here’s their assessment:

Supposedly, Who Is Fancy will be revealed on the Tonight Show on April 7th! But if you would like to see a possible spoiler, check out Time Magazine’s investigation.

Personally, I’ll be tickled if the performance adds more mystery than it dispels.  Fancy’s anonymity may be a gimmick, but this day and age, I rather like it.

 

Want more Fancy?  

Official web page (apparently, something is happening in a few days!)

Interview with the Elvis Duran Show (4/2/2015)

Twitter

*For now, I’m proceeding on the assumption that Fancy is male, judging by his vocals alone.  Of course, the videos above hint at other possibilities, and I suppose it’s possible that Fancy could be a Tracy Chapman, Alison Moyet or Marla Glen kind of singer!

Years & Years – King

After hearing just a snippet of “Kings,” I took a chance on Years & Years’ Y & Y EP.  And it was worth so, so much more than $3 and change.

If Years & Years was a perfume, I’d describe it as a heady electropop scent with notes of R&B, soul and 90s house music.  And I’d wear it all the damn time.

Come for the trio’s unique danceable but never dumb electropop sound, stay for lead singer Olly Alexander’s soulful, heartfelt vocals, which at times make me wonder if he’s the second coming of Michael Jackson.

Though there’s not a dud on the EP, “Kings” is the standout candidate for first single.

Recently, I contemplated if this track was too “weird” on make it to American pop radio, since mainstream U.S. radio can be very restricting of anything that sounds even a little different.  Or could it rise to the top like other oddball singles of recent years, such as Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” or Lorde’s “Royals”?

Out of curiosity, I checked the UK charts, which tend to celebrate the fresh, new and unusual.  Sure enough, number one!

Years & Years are causing quite a stir in their native England.  Most recently, they topped the BBC Music Sound of 2015 poll, which has previously been awarded to such international household names as Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith, Adele and Jessie J.

And if the fact that they’re basically the audio equivalent of salted caramel ice cream wasn’t enough, Years & Years are easy on the eyes, too.  In the first few seconds of the video above, I had a bit of a Maroon 5 “She Will Be Loved” experience, in that I wondered, “is that actually the singer, or an actor?”

As it turns out, the answer is yes, and yes – Olly Alexander is an actor, having appeared in “Skins” as well as other TV series and movies.  Mr. Alexander says he “fell into” acting, yet I find myself baffled by how one becomes an actor when he sings that well.

Let’s talk choreography for a moment!  The video above was choreographed by the talented Ryan Heffington, who is best known for a video you’ve definitely seen (and if not, it’s worth the click): Sia’s “Chandelier”!

In their own words, Years & Years said of this video, “As a band we’ve always wanted to use choreography in a video – something that was a bit more unusual and I knew Ryan would be the guy to work with. The initial idea came from the meaning of the song, feeling controlled by somebody and wanting them to let you go.”  That idea comes across in a strange, beautiful and definitely memorable way.

On a final note, I must recommend the EP’s final song “Memo”, a stunning, gorgeous little shard of heartbreak.  Just listen to it.  But consider having a person or pet on hand to give you a hug afterwards.

My verdict: Years & Years are going to be around for just that long, and their star is only going to rise.

Craving more Years & Years?

Mark Ronson – Uptown Funk (ft. Bruno Mars)

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in the U.S., and I am thankful for FUNK!

From the moment I heard this song on November 17th on Z100 (New York’s #1 hit music station) I was hooked!

I’ve loved Bruno Mars since It’s Better If You Don’t Understand, and his halftime show at the last Super Bowl rocketed him right into the top 5 artists I most want to see in concert.

For my non-U.S. readers: the Super Bowl is like the World Cup of American football.  In the middle of every game (“halftime”), a superstar musician performs (recent examples include Madonna and Beyonce).  It’s a really big deal to be asked to do the halftime show, and the performers usually bring exciting surprise guests, such as Madonna’s collaborators on the underrated “Gimme All Your Luvin’” and a reunited Destiny’s Child.

Now please don’t ask me to explain American football.

But seriously, if you’re not convinced that Bruno is an absolute rock star, I’m giving you one more chance to click that link.  What a talent.  What a performer!

And then there’s Mark Ronson.  Superstar DJ/guitarist/producer and pretty much the rule of cool.  If think you don’t know him, I must politely insist that you do – you’ve likely heard “Valerie” (with Amy Winehouse),”Oh My God” (with Lily Allen) and/or “Stop Me” with Daniel Merriweather.  Also, just look at this f*#$ing discography – it’s like a who’s who list of incredible artists of the past decade!

Mark Ronson has a history of collaborating with Bruno Mars, including producing his 2012 Unorthdox Jukebox, which won the Best Pop Vocal Album Grammy in 2012.

This video.  My god, are they the funkiest bunch of dudes ever.  That style.  That swagger.  Those moves!  They absolutely nail it.

Watch them kill it live on SNL last week:

All indications so far are that Mark Ronson’s upcoming album will be chock full of funkiness.  If you’re digging this, don’t miss “Feel Right” with Mystikal and “Daffodils” featuring Kevin Parker of Tame Impala.

If you like this, and want more of this “funk” stuff, whatever it is – start here!

I for one certainly have no desire to stick anything in Bruno’s got-damn esophagus.

Back in the Saddle!

We’re proud to announce that we are back by popular demand – with a swanky new look to boot!

And did we mention SO many new tunes?  Seriously, we’ve got a queue of 20+ songs, bands and albums that we’re loving right now and can’t wait to post about!  (Unfortunately, we do have to sleep and work day jobs sometimes, but we’ll get to it as quickly as we can!)

What’s that?  You’d like a sneak preview?  Why, of course!  Here’s our 2014-09/10 Playlist on Spotify!

Seriously, massive thanks to you, dear readers, for your readership and your positive feedback – even when we didn’t post anything!  You inspired our comeback, and we hope you like love it!

xx Ash

Roger Margarit – Avui Si

Recently, I stumbled upon a heartwarming video about the unlikely friendship between a cat and an owl.  In doing so, I also stumbled upon the happy little tune I’m sharing with you today.

First, I’d like to share the cat/owl video, because it’s pretty incredible:

Here’s the real music video, which is also fun and heartwarming in its own way (though to us, it’s hard to beat cat and owl besties):

We had a bit of confusion while determining the language in which Roger Margarit sings – was it Italian?  Spanish?  Nope!  Catalan.

Roger Margarit, only 18 (!!) is a singer-songwriter from Ruby, Vallès Occidental in Catalonia, Spain.  He describes his style as “Pop Natural”, which is  intended to be “simple, spontaneous, sensitive, naive,” and (if I’m loosely translating this properly) incorporating the values of nature.  This is definitely a good description of this song’s sound – it’s lighthearted, whimsical, and transports the listener into a softer universe in which magical things are possible.  Like a cat befriending an owl, for instance.

Learn more about Roger Margarit at his official website (translate-able and mostly comprehensible with Google translate).

Listen to his 2012 album, A la Vilaverda, which includes “Avui Si”, on Spotify.

 

Programming note: As you may have guessed, we made a New Year’s Resolution to update more often!  We know that the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions fail, but since this one doesn’t involve doing something we hate, like eating brussels sprouts or spending hours at the gym every day, we figure we’ve got a better than average chance.  Tl;dr, look forward to more tunes soon. 🙂

 

D’Banj – Oliver Twist

Nigerian artist D’Banj’s “Oliver Twist” topped the African charts in 2011, and is now it’s becoming quite the summer hit in the UK. Who knows where this catchy dance tune will travel next?

Wikipedia sums D’Banj’s style up nicely:

As a tribute to his mentor Fela, D’banj brings Afrobeat to life and into the 21st century with breathless enthusiasm as well as a good dose of humour. His songs are based on his life, often hilarious but with a deeper meaning which documents the struggle of a young African trying to achieve his dreams. He performs in Yoruba, English and Pidgin English. All his albums are solely produced by Don Jazzy and himself.

Then in 2011, D’Banj and his producer Don Jazzy, both of Nigerian record label MoHits, were both signed to Kanye West‘s G.O.O.D. Music record label. In a 2011 BET special, D’Banj expressed his interest in “tak[ing] over this town” and “eat[ing] out of the Big Apple“. Having jammed out to his “Mr. Endowed” last year and now “Oliver Twist” this year, I sure hope D’Banj succeeds in doing so!

Check out D’Banj on facebook, twitter, myspace, and last.fm.

Happy Fourth of July!

And we’re back!

Apologies are in order for my final exams-and-graduation related absence. We plan to update more often from here on out. Why? Because we like you.

And because we like you, we present to you some off-the-beaten path tunes for your Fourth of July celebration. Sure, everyone’s going to have Katy Perry’s “Firework” on their list, and they damn well better have Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park”. But what might you have left off your playlist?

1. Liam Lynch – United States of Whatever

Liam Lynch’s mock punk rock classic certainly belongs on any respectable Independence Day playlist. This song always makes me crack up – and if you like this, don’t miss his Fake Songs.

2. Red Flag – Party and Bullsh*t in the USA

I’m a big fan of the humble mash-up. The addition of Biggie makes “Party in the U.S.A.” tolerable even when you’re sober.

3.The Bird and the Bee – 4th of July

So pretty it’ll give you chills. The Bird and the Bee masterfully “Interpret[] the Masters” on this one.

4. Ellie Goulding – Lights

Finally – finally! – Ellie Goulding is starting to blow up here stateside. And “Lights” is certainly an appropriate theme for a holiday known for its vivid firework displays.

5. Lana Del Rey – National Anthem

So, it’s not the real national anthem, but it does contain the following lyrics:

Red, white and blue’s in the skies 

Summer’s in the air and baby, heaven’s in your eyes

I’m your national anthem.

Arguably, this one also falls under the heading of “irreverent songs about America” – “money is the anthem of success” is repeated in verses.

6. Yolanda Be Cool & DCup – We No Speak Americano

It’s America-related and a little ironic for the holiday, but the dance beat is most definitely apropos.

7. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince – Summertime

Takin’ it back to ’91! In my opinion, one of the most evocative songs about what summertime feels like at its best – one big holiday.

8. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals – Hot Summer Night

Here’s what temperatures are looking like in the U.S. today:

(Source: weather.com)

So it’s safe to say that pretty much everywhere, it’s gonna be hot. This little ditty is quite appropriate, and not as campy as “Summer Nights” from Grease.

9. Lovex & Miyavi – U.S.A.

Definitely an irreverent, critical song about the U.S.A. But this country was founded by outspoken iconoclasts – what’s more patriotic than dissent?

10. Tacabro – Tacatà

Why “Tacatà”? Why not!? This song is my jam at the moment, and for that reason alone, it’s going on my Fourth of July playlist.

Craving more? Here’s my Fourth of July Spotify playlist, chock full of upbeat, modern tunes fit for the Fourth: http://spoti.fi/Lo1FeT

Baby, you’re a firework.

Happy Fourth, music lovers!