Kylie’s Gone all Glitter, Banjos and Cowboy Boots
The pop star that’s had three rip-roaring decades of disco dancing has traded it all in for double-denim, and more than just a dash of country. After the booming sound of a horse’s neigh resonated through the venue, Kylie, descended the curved staircase and was met by an excited crowd, a live band wearing red neckerchiefs – and a payload of glitter discharged from a cannon.
And the Glitter Didn’t Stop There
Distinctly folksy complete with rhinestones and cowboy boots, Kylie’s latest instalment to the world of pop includes several surprisingly cheesy performances. In a single called ‘Dancing’, Kylie does line-dancing with death (outfits here range from country gear bedecked with rhinestones, a sequinned dress, and a scanty nightdress that screams ‘rodeo princess in repose’). Big Luke, a bearded man with a banjo features in her song ‘A Lifetime to Repair’. Keeping with the country vibe, Kylie also pays a somewhat bizarre homage to Dolly Parton by performing Dolly’s 1983 hit ‘Islands in the Stream’ as a duet with Big Luke and his banjo. As somebody with a usually deft hand at selecting duet partners that have included Robbie Williams and Nick Cave, this was a highly surprising selection. Another surprise was the tune ‘Raining Glitter’, the only typically disco/pop song, albeit being slightly countrified with a little country guitar thrown in for fun.
Cars, Radios, Mortality and KissesWhether Kylie is singing about cars or kisses, and performing pseudo-pop or faux country, she continues to draw the audience in as a thoroughly relatable diva. And despite cancer, chemo and all the other curveballs life has thrown her way, the nearly 50-year old does it all with grace. Kylie vows in her final performance of the night, “When I go out, I wanna go out dancing.”
A Spectacular Performance from Five Songs
It was reported that the five top original songs featured in this year’s Academy Awards had an outstanding 373% sales boost in the 24 hours following the ceremony. The previous day saw the five nominated songs collectively downloaded 3,000 times, but increasing to as much as 17,000 downloads the following day.
In the Lead
Miguel and Natalia Lafourcade and Gael Garcia Bernal performed Coco’s “Remember Me” – this year’s most popular song. It was not only the winner at the event, it also doubled its’ downloads to 2,000 the following day. “Remember Me” was written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.
Now that music apps play such a big part in our busy lives, it’s important to find the right one for your taste and lifestyle. That can be easier said than done, though, simply because there are so many options out there. Let’s try and bring some clarity by profiling some of the most successful and/or user/friendly products in the field. Whatever choice you make, we hope you continue to enjoy old favourites while also making thrilling new discoveries. Underneath the technology it’s still all about the music.
Jonathan Bree’s second solo album, A Little Night Music, confirms how far Bree has traveled since he first achieved prominence with his former band mates in The Brunettes, an outfit that successfully fused indie sounds with somewhat corny bubblegum catchiness. Although served with a heavy dose of ironic detachment, this indie bubblegum amalgam proved to be simultaneously irritating and irresistibly hooky. That’s not what we hear when we listen to ALNM, though.
Orchestral Maneuvers in the Night
Although ALNM certainly has its own lighter touches, it deftly situates even those moments within an overall mood that it considerably darker than anything we've heard from The Brunettes. As ALNM plays, its combination of orchestral manoeuvers and crooning singing can’t help but remind the listener of the sweetly crooned but acerbic lyrics of Lee Hazlewood or the dramatic moodiness of Scott Walker. Unlike the extremely rich orchestration that accompanied Walker’s voice, however, Bree has opted for a more tempered, scaled-down use of strings on ALNM.
The result is a semi-orchestral collection produced on a shoestring. Bree has been very open about how deeply classical music has influenced his writing and production for this album. His orchestral scoring, though, has a sort of distressed or deliberately rough quality that puts a lot of distance between him and the likes of Bartók and co. Bree clearly knows what he’s doing here, since the album’s intimate recording style endows it with an emotional quality that a larger-scale or more richly textured approach would have ruled out.
A New Intensity
What’s surprising is that an album that dispenses with both rock and R&B works so well. Just as the sound of ALNM combines the orchestral with the low-key, Bree’s lyrics somehow wrest a kind of perfection from the trivial and the apparently commonplace. Although we’ve focused on the album’s orchestral sounds and moody atmosphere, we need also to pay due respect to the moral anger that drives the album and brings it together. This moral intensity is evident, for example, when Bree castigates a woman who is too worried about her coffee being hot enough to spare a thought for dying infants in Africa. Right on target!
Purity Zinhle Mkhize bares her soul and her body (and a tapestry of other bodies) in a gentle yet emotionally charged performance. Directed by Kyle Lewis, one of South Africa’s most highly acclaimed music video directors, Purity’s performance on her ‘No Secrets’ video reached in and firmly tugged at something inside me. And that’s just the start of it.
From Punk to Purity
When I began exploring this kind-of quirky, kind-of captivating lady I discovered that she had already made her mark in SA music years ago, but on an entirely different level. Purity was fun and funky as vocalist for the South African punk band The Pranks (previously known as Fruits & Veggies) before her work took a different direction and she went solo. Her idea for her first performance after the re-invention was to create something raw and honest that promotes positive body image. The ‘No Secrets’ video was result of this. The video strips her talent bare, slices off any of the redundant noise that comes with punk performances and leaves something honest and yes, pure
The Solo Journey
Clearly a woman in control of herself, her art and her look, Purity is redefining the stereotype associated with her ‘people’. Whether that can be defined as Zulus, South Africans, or simply Africans, Purity suffered through insults from her community who she claims, ‘don’t understand and aren’t really exposed to alternative individualism’. Purity’s outlook has always been based on honesty, and what can be more honest than self-expression through soulful (and soul-baring) art? She believes that her music and her life are an interconnected force and that she is achieving personal growth through listening to what her heart wants – and following its governance. We could all take a leaf out of Purity’s book.
More Music Here
What Katy Promised
Katy Perry’s latest album, Witness, is not what Katy promised it would be, but it does succeed in its own terms. At the Grammy Awards ceremony this year, Perry announced that her forthcoming album, Witness, would consist of what she called “purposeful pop.” Perry’s use of that vague but potentially activist tag, taken along with her public endorsements of Hilary Clinton and her description of herself as an “advocate,” naturally led to expectations that Witness would be a politically engaged album that would focus on Perry’s resistance to the Trump administration. You may also recall that these unrealized expectations for Witness led to some, fairly heated discussion about whether Perry was the sort of artist who could credibly make protest pop of this kind. As we listen to the album she actually released, though, we find that none of this came to pass. All of that pre-kerfuffle was therefore a waste of breath and ink!
What Katy DidSo, what has Perry delivered instead? What we have here is a messy, self-centered record of the kind we’re already very used to. This may be a good thing for the artist, because many of her admirers, unsurprisingly, still long for the kind of enjoyable, carefree pop that she has always given us. Presumably, many of these fans won’t exactly be disappointed that Perry hasn’t delivered on her promise to make an album that would be mentally, sexually and spiritually liberating. And that’s quite a lot to promise! Before we judge Perry too harshly, though, it’s important to say that, although it is no masterpiece of political insight, Witness is nevertheless her most daring and provocative album so far. Perry has bravely and cleverly drawn on genres like witch house and future pop, but she has carefully integrated these darker elements into an accessible pop album. This may be mainstream pop, but it’s not any old mainstream pop!
More than two decades since he released the highly influential, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, a benchmark album in establishing Southern Rap as a force to be reckoned with, former-Outkast rapper BigBoi returns with Boomiverse. This new album combines cosmic and futurist directions with BigBoi’s signature Southern rap sound and with hard-driving party jams. The project as a whole has a somewhat disjointed feel and relies heavily on BigBoi’s creative momentum to provide some coherence. What prevents this album from achieving a full return to form is a palpable lack of assurance about its overall creative direction.
Having its name determined by a coin flip is not the only interesting thing about this vibrant city. Known as a laboratory of everything that’s hip and cool, Portland’s music scene is nothing less. The city’s highly diverse musicians range from the feisty youngGrammy award-winning jazz princess Esperanza Spalding to Tommy Thayer, the lead guitarist for the hard rock band Kiss – also known as The Spaceman. With this kind of creative diversity, a fabulous array of artisan baristas and dog-friendly bars, Portland is understandably a very popular city and many people are settling there.
The Secret is Out, And It’s Causing Trouble!Since it became common knowledge that Portland is oh so cool, the city is no longer one of America’s best kept secrets. Unfortunately, since so many people are honing in on the coolness, Portland’s rents are skyrocketing and this is severely affecting the music scene. Venue after venue started shutting their doors. Old favorites that welcome patrons of all ages like Slabtown and Backspace were the first to go. Then venues that had liquor sales to keep them afloat, like Blue Monk and Alhambra were not able to sustain operations (and insane rents!), and also threw in the towel. With music lovers struggling to find places to go to and artists having the same battle with venues to perform at, Portland’s music scene had no choice but to evolve.