Views on pop culture through my eyes

Posts tagged ‘singers’

Spring Reviews Part 1

Welcome back to the blog. It’s time again for my reviews of different entertainment options. What have I been listening to and watching recently? Read on.

CDs

Basia “It’s That Girl Again” Back from her 90’s hey day, comes Basia. The only latin pop contemporary jazz artist to come from Poland that I know of! She doesn’t mess with her formula too much, which is a good thing. It was good hear from an old friend again. Grade: B+

Kenny Chesney “Hemingway’s Whiskey” Kenny is a very consistent performer for me. He’s got his successful formula, and he is good at it. So you get the party songs along with some ballads thrown in and some island references too. Includes his duet with Grace Potter on “You and Tequila.” Grade: B

Miranda Lambert “The Weight of These Wings” This is her first project since her public split from Blake Shelton. It is a double album, that is one of her most personal. It doesn’t really have a good radio single from it, but there is still plenty to like. It gets better with each listen. Grade: A-

Kylie Minogue “The Abbey Road Sessions” Basically it is Kylie unplugged. So you get reworked versions of Kylie’s hits and album cuts with all new arrangements. So yes, there are lots of strings on here. I really like this album. Pop artists like Kylie don’t seem to get the respect they deserve. Definitely worth a listen. You can tell she is a good pop singer when you strip away her production. Not something you can say about a lot of today’s pop stars. Grade: B+

Mary J. Blige “My Life II — The Journey Continues (Act I)” Mary J. Blige brings forth a sequel to her “My Life” album. Beyonce, Drake and Nas help out, but it’s her voice and charisma that shine through. She does a remake of “Ain’t Nobody” by Rufus and Chaka Khan. But my favorite is a song called “25/8.” Where she sings about a love she wants more than 24/7. Another consistently good album from the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Grade: B

DNCE “Swaay” Another Jonas bother takes flight, this time it’s Joe Jonas. Joe sings lead in this 4-person group. He tried a solo album before, but that never took off. The EP of 4 songs, includes the smash hit single “Cake by the Ocean” as well as the hit “Toothbrush.” Worth a listen. Grade: B

Alex Newell “Power” An alumni of “Glee,” Alex first came to prominence on the “Glee Project” before taking on the role of Unique on the ground-breaking Fox drama. He is channeling 90’s dance divas on his first EP. The songs will get you moving. Grade: B

Bryan Adams “Get Up” The Canadian rocker is back with his latest collection. And it is produced by Jeff Lynne of ELO. You get some rockabilly, some ballads, and a few acoustic versions of some of the new songs. I enjoyed it. Highlights include: “You Belong to Me” and “We Did It All.” Grade: A-

Blake Shelton “Startin’ Fires” One of Blake’s earlier albums. A nice mix of songs including the #1 smash “She Wouldn’t Be Gone.” Also includes a duet with Miranda Lambert before they got married on “Bare Skin Rug” that highlights their chemistry. Grade: B

Tim McGraw “Two Lanes of Freedom” One of country’s most consistent performers, Tim delivers another solid collection. Includes the hit “Highway Don’t Care” with Keith Urban and Taylor Swift. Grade: B

Diana Ross “The Definitive Collection” I decided to pick up this collection after seeing Miss Ross in concert last summer. I was reminded of her incredible song catalog at the show, and this is a great collection of her biggest hits including “Endless Love” and “Upside Down.” Grade: A

Ed Sheeran “Divide” Ed is back with his latest album. And he has gone to number one on the singles chart with “Shape of You” as well as number 1 for the album also. He does his white-boy hip-hop on a few songs; plus brings in some celtic textures, latin rhythms and world music on a few numbers too. It is a nice welcome back from one of today’s hottest talents. Grade: A-

Little Big Town “The Breaker” The country vocal quartet is back in the country lane after a detour into pop with last year’s “Wanderlust.” You have their trademark vocal harmonies on a nice collection of songs including “Better Man” (written for them by Taylor Swift). Other highlights include: “Happy People” and “We Went to the Beach.” Grade: A-

Mariah Carey “Me. I Am Mariah. The Elusive Chanteuse” Mariah’s most recent studio album, has a nice mix of ballads and uptempo songs. Plus some special guest appearances including R. Kelly and Mary J. Blige on the deluxe edition. Includes the hit “#Beautiful” with Miguel. Grade: B+

Jason Mraz “Love Is a Four Letter Word” Jason is in love. This is a pleasant album. RB Lite is what I would call it. Includes the hit “I Won’t Give Up.” Grade: B-

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Please sound off in the comments, if you disagree or agree with my take on things.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

 

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Falling Out of Love with Singers

Do you still like the same music you liked growing up? Or even the same artists as you did 10-20 years ago? I remember I liked KC & the Sunshine Band and Andy Gibb back in grammar school. I haven’t heard any of their music lately, but I do own their greatest hits collections.

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Being someone’s fan for a period of time, doesn’t mean we have to like everything they put out. People change, and your taste in music changes too. And an artist changes and evolves over their career too. Madonna, is someone who I have loved over the course of her entire career. Sure, there were albums and singles that I didn’t like as much, but overall, she is very dependable, and someone I would like to hear new music from.

For other singers, you may love a period of their music, or you loved them then, but not so much now. Who have I fallen out of love with and why? I have included my chances of buying new music or seeing them in concert at the end of each entry on a scale of 1-10. Read on to see my choices:

Olivia Newton-John. She was my favorite from Grease up to her Greatest Hits Vol. 2 and “Heart Attack.” I loved a lot of her music, and have seen her in concert a number of times. But her recent music…. Well, it is all sort of mellow and boring from what I have heard. I still love Olivia, and would love to see her in Vegas, but I will stick with her old music. And pass on any new music. Chance of seeing in concert: 8; Chance of buying new music: 5.

Kim Carnes. Mistaken identity was a great pop-rock record. Besides “Bette Davis Eyes”, there was a whole album of great songs there. I enjoyed her next few albums too, but as the hits stopped coming, my interest in her waned too. Never got to see her in concert. Chance of seeing in concert: 5; Chance of buying new music: 4.

George Michael. He was once my favorite singer. I especially loved Wham! and “Faith”. After “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1” it was all downhill. I honestly haven’t followed him in years. Chance of seeing in concert: 6; Chance of buying new music: 3.

Toni Braxton. I loved her music when she was on Arista Records. Her output since then has been hit or miss. I do want to get her album with Babyface though. Chance of seeing in concert: 8; Chance of buying new music: 7.

Prince. I was a little late to the party with him. After “Purple Rain” I got all of his stuff up until the “Emancipation” CD. He just released too much, and it was just OK. Still a great live performer. Chance of seeing in concert: 8; Chance of buying new music: 6.

Debbie Gibson. I was really into her when she was on Atlantic Records… the first 3 were all great pop records. And she put on a good live show too. But after going through a few labels, and different styles I lost interest. For example, I would love to see a pop version of the Regeneration Tour (which has highlighted new-wave groups). How about Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Stacey Q., Samantha Fox, and Lisa Lisa together? I would so be there. Chance of seeing in concert: 5; Chance of buying new music: 3.

Rick Springfield. One of my favorite heart throbs from back in the day. His career was much more than “Jessie’s Girl” and I advise you to check out his anthology collection. But recent albums have been underwhelming or hook free for me. I know I haven’t bought the last few. Chance of seeing in concert: 7; Chance of buying new music: 5.

Blondie. This group has a great catalog of great songs from “Dreaming” to “Call Me” up to “Maria.” But 40 years on, I can’t say I am all that interested in the new music. But Debbie Harry is one of the best rock vocalists around still, and there might be a few songs I like on their recent releases. Chance of seeing in concert: 8; Chance of buying new music: 6.

Billy Joel. The Piano Man is still a force to be reckoned with on the concert trail. He has a great catalog of hits… but he says he is done with releasing new music. His last album was 21 years ago. I for one would love to see him do a covers album or a Christmas album. Chance of seeing in concert: 5; Chance of buying new music: 8.

So that’s my list. Who have you fallen out of love with? I would love to hear from you.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Remember This: Male Singers Part 2

Did you enjoy my trip down memory lane? Here are some more guys I am bringing back into the spotlight:

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Paul Young
British soul singer Paul Young had the biggest hit of his career with his take on a song from Hall & Oates.
Essential songs: Everytime You Go Away, Come Back and Stay

Howard Jones
New wave keyboardist Howard Jones, have had a decently long career. He has written some great pop gems, that still sound great. He was one of the headliners on the Regeneration Tour last year.
Essential songs: Things Can Only Get Better, No One Is to Blame

Kenny Loggins
For a while this guy was the go-to singer for movie soundtracks in the 1980’s. And this was after his success with Jim Messina in the 70’s.
Essential songs: Footloose, I’m Alright, Danger Zone

Babyface
One of hottest singer, songwriter and producers of the 90’s and beyond. He has written and produced for Toni Braxton, Bobby Brown and more. Plus had hits on his own too.
Essential songs: Whip Appeal, It’s No Crime

Bobby Brown
He first came to prominence in the group New Edition, but after his 2nd album he was a star on his own. Lots of attitude and swagger… he owes a lot of his success to his songwriters and producers.
Essential songs: Don’t Be Cruel, My Prerogative

Billy Ocean
Equally adept at dance songs and ballads, this singer from Trinidad, had a good run of catchy songs.
Essential songs: Caribbean Queen, Get Out of My Dreams (Get into My Car)

Rick Astley
He looked like an Archie comic, but sang like a soul star. Thanks to the production team of Stock Aitken Waterman, he became a worldwide sensation.
Essential songs: Never Gonna Give You Up, Together Forever

Seal
This British soul singer definitely made a name for himself . First with his songs, second for who he married and divorced (Heidi Klum).
Essential songs: Crazy, Kiss from a Rose

Lenny Kravitz
American born rocker who hasn’t been shy about his love of music from decades past especially the 60’s and 70’s. He also acts — see The Hunger Games.
Essential songs: American Woman, It’s Not Over til It’s Over

That’s it for round 2. Did I leave anyone off? I would love to hear from you.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Remember This: Male Singers

This is the third blog in a series that focuses on musical acts from the past that I enjoy. The first was on female singers. The second was on groups. This one will focus on male singers. So who do I want to put the spotlight back on?

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Adam Ant
This singer from London, first made a splash in the group Adam and the Ants. With outrageous music videos and a great fashion sense, he definitely had his own style.
Essential songs: Goody Two Shoes, Strip

 

Billy Idol
With his spiky bleach blonde hair, and his snear, he was made for the music video era. He took punk to the mainstream, and had a few hits along the way.
Essential songs: Dancing with Myself, Rebel Yell

 

Michael Bolton
Singer-songwriter Michael Bolton definitely made plenty of hearts flutter back in the day… with his beautiful long locks and sexy, romantic vocals.
Essential songs: How Am I Supposed to Live Without You, When a Man Loves a Woman

 

Rick Springfield
He was my main teenage crush. He first came to my attention on the “Mission Magic” cartoon. But it was “Jessie’s Girl” that really put his musical career on the map. He is still a popular touring act.
Essential songs: Jessie’s Girl, Human Touch

 

Bryan Adams
This Canadian rocker with the raspy voice, had a string of hit songs in the 80’s and 90’s. He also did a number of movie songs too. He was equally adept at tender ballads and arena rockers.
Essential songs: Summer of 69, Heaven

 

George Michael
Before all the scandals and the self-imposed exile, he was a hitmaker with an impressive range of Top Ten hits. He was a great pop singer and songwriter.
Essential songs: Faith, Father Figure, Freedom ‘90

 

Terence Trent Darby
This man was proceeded by a fair amount of hype, his debut lived up to it. Too bad the rest of his career didn’t.
Essential songs: Wishing Well, Sign Your Name

 

Phil Collins
Already a star in the band Genesis, he also had a string of hit songs in the 80’s on his own.
Essential songs: In the Air Tonight, Sussidio

 

Sting
Another lead vocalist gone solo, he came from the group The Police and never looked back. He explored jazz, world music, soul and more in his solo career.
Essential songs: If You Love Someone (Set Them Free), Fields of Gold

 

Falco
Closer to a one-hit wonder than not, this singer had us caring about Mozart all over again. Sadly he died in car crash in 1998.
Essential songs: Vienna Calling, Rock Me Amadeus

 

Look for Part 2 of this conversation next week. Let me know what you think.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

New Year, New Idol?

The 13th season of American Idol will soon be upon us. I have been an Idol watcher since the first season. Yes, it has taken a few hits in recent years in the ratings. The Voice has emerged as the #1 singing competition show on television. Plus there has been drama in front of camera (fighting or lack of chemistry with judges panel) and behind the scenes with the show (change of executive producer; lame theme nights) too. Not to mention a few too many years of white guys with guitars winning the show also. But you know what? Idol is still the best at what it does. And that is — it makes stars. I think it says a lot that NBC chose an American Idol winner to headline “The Sound of Music — Live”. They could have cast someone from “The Voice”, but they needed a superstar and that show has not produced one yet. Same for “The X Factor” too (at least the US version).American Idol

The drama with the judges panel should be over now. This season will have Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. Keith is back for a 2nd season, and J Lo. is on season 3 (non-consecutive). Harry is new to the panel but not new to Idol. He has served as a mentor before. Not crazy about the idea of Randy Jackson replacing Jimmy Iovine as the consultant w/ the contestants. But we’ll see. Jimmy has been the voice of reason for the last few seasons, so I am sorry to see him go.

As for the contestants themselves, I think last season’s winner (Candice Glover) was the best winner they have had in a long time. She is an amazing singer. And I am glad that she is taking her time with her album. It was supposed to come out last July, only 2 months after winning. Instead it will come out in February 2014. She is definitely a star, and I hope that she gets the material she deserves.

As for the show itself, I hope that there are a few changes in store. Let the talent speak for itself! Last season it seems like the contestants were tilted in favor of the women. I had a hard time believing that the Top Ten guys were the best they saw. Why not let the viewers see more of the Hollywood Week? Sometimes the producers have followed people because they have an interesting story… not because they are the best vocalists. Does a person have to have suffered and struggled to make them relatable? I don’t think so… as long as they are humble.

I think it is nice that they have allowed the contestants to play their instruments in the competition. How about letting them play more of their original songs if they have them? What about having a songwriting session with some top songwriters? Maybe nothing would come of it — but then again maybe there could be a hit there.

As for the theme weeks, I say OK as long as it allows the singer to stay within their genre. Sure, it is nice to say a person can sing rock, pop, country, R&B and more. But most artists know what suits them best. And if your style is country, you should not have to sing a Michael Jackson or Queen song just because that is the theme that week. So keep “Songs from the Year You Were Born” and “Billboard Hot 100 Songs” but ditch the aforementioned Queen and Beatles weeks. How about “Songs That Should Have Been Hits” or  “Love Songs” week? I liked the idea of “One Hit Wonders” but the way it happened last time, it was a bunch of songs that had been remade over and over (yes, the were big hits, but I was thinking more of like “Take on Me” by a-ha than what we ended up with).

Cutting the results show down to half an hour makes sense. It is usually just a bunch of filler and than 5 minutes of results. I do like seeing all the old Idol alumni come back and perform. And I guess I am the only one who likes to see the group numbers. I could do without the Coke commercials and what the contestants think about each other. Or what it is like living at the Idol house.

So I hope you will join me for another season of the best singing competition show on television. All of the music sales, #1 hits, accolades, and awards speak for themselves. This is where superstars are born!

 KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and  Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

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