Sunday, May 29, 2011

Elizabeth Berkley: An Interview with a Goddess

Elizabeth Berkley did something quite rare with her career. After being viciously attacked in every which way possible for her performance in the legendary film Showgirls, Berkley kept on, taking on challenges roles on screen and on stage, and more recent, creating a forum for young women to discuss their everyday issues, thus, Ask Elizabeth was born. The forum became a website, then upon request, a book.
A lot of her pain from the reaction to the film Showgirls went into Ask Elizabeth, a book penned by Elizabeth with the aide of young girls talking about real issues. The pages are filled with stories and advice that is directed toward young women, but could easily assist in the lives of any gay man as well. Ask Elizabeth deals with bullies, body image, friends, family, drama (something gays know nothing about) and much more.

Showgirls may have taught us how to land a spot in Goddess, how to watch our figure (brown rice and vegetables), and the proper pronunciation of Versace (“Ver-sase” ), but the newest project of Berkley ’s teaches us how to survive in the real world. From Saved by the Bell to Ask Elizabeth, Berkley has, and always will be, a goddess.

Eric Chavez: First of all, I would love to congratulate you on the success of the book. It’s an amazing piece of work. I’m a male, but I can understand everything you discuss in your book, from bullies to body image. I think that the book, aside from a few things, could be for both sexes.

Elizabeth Berkley: Yeah, it’s funny because the teachers have told me that the boys have been reading it too in discussion groups at school, which is so cool to me that it’s opening up that dialogue.

EC: Definitely. Now in the book, you discuss how people have criticized you in the past, and how one time a journalist even called you a “failure.” When I read that, my heart just dropped! I couldn’t believe it!

EB: It was real! I’m being honest. I mean people say awful things. No one goes unscaved, we all go through things. We just can’t let people’s nasty words become our beliefs about ourselves, you know?

EC: You know what, though? Maybe without that past, there might not have been an Ask Elizabeth book or website.

EB: You’re probably right. I may not have had the same level of desire to be of service in this area. I think often times when people choose to be part of a charity; it’s usually because something is very personal.

EC: Now that the book’s out and a success, is there still a television show planned in conjunction to the book?

EB: There are some tv ideas now that I’m exploring that could be a really powerful platform. It would just have to be different from what I’m doing because no one will want to watch a two hour workshop! I can’t wait to show it to you and share it. My original intention was to help the girls in an interactive way to give them a form to feel safe enough to ask the questions that they might feel alone in. For a long time they were asking me to create a website, but it’s not a real meaningful connection, it’s just sound bites, and so the girls asked me to make a book. I was so excited, so that’s why I took 15 of the most asked questions to create the book.

EC: You know, It’s hard growing up, period. This book doesn’t have one single answer, but it deals with issues that no one else really is, and the thing about it, because you’re a celebrity, people might see you in a movie and be like, “I like her, so I’m going to check this out. “ But I was shocked to see some bloggers show some disrespect to the book when it was originally announced to come out because it contains the writings from these young girls.

EB: For people, Ask Elizabeth has been such a private journey between me and the girls and their schools, until people understand, well first of all, I don’t care about people like that anyway, because they were not informed on what Ask Elizabeth is. Ask Elizabeth is a community of voices, it’s not me standing on a podium telling people how to run their lives, it’s girls helping each other sharing their wisdom and advice and I create a space for them to do it. So, there couldn’t be an Ask Elizabeth without their voices, just like I have a column on Oprah's website where it’s moms asking question, but it’s me and the girls answering. It’s not a celeb-vanity project.

EC: I know! In so many ways you are going to help girls and boys so much in the future. I don’t even know why they would hate on that! Speaking of that, I’ve always admired you because after Showgirls, and all the criticism, the unfair criticism, mind you, you carried that film brilliantly and no one else could have! I’m waiting for another vehicle starring you. You made Showgirls work. I mean that’s why it’s a cult film. I mean people don’t just love it or like that movie, they adore it! And I’m one of them! You made that movie magical.

EB: Thank you so much! I really appreciate what you’re saying, thank you so much for acknowledging me like that; it’s really beautiful to hear that from you. It is funny; I mean if that movie was so bad, why didn’t it die on the movie shelf? Clearly, there was something to it. It’s one of the top MGM top selling videos of all time, and people are watching it. It’s a cult classic now! I’m really looking forward to taking what I have become to really sink my teeth into a really juicy role or a comedy, I love doing comedies. I’m ready to step into that really good kind of role that you’re talking about, so we’ll both be excited at that moment.

EC: I once tweeted Cher, telling her she should do a movie with you! She never replied, but hopefully she saw that and has that in mind.

EB: I love her! I love her. That would be genius!

EC: Speaking of Showgirls, did you know there are people on Facebook who have created “Nomi Malone” profiles, and they quote your character in the film, or just take the character and run with it? It’s the funniest thing, they even have the Human Resources lady from the movie, that you have a one-minute interview with, she even has a Facebook page!

EB: (Laughs) I can’t wait to check it out.

EC: My next question is, for you, you’ve done so many amazing films and television shows, but if there were one movie or tv show in a time capsule to represent your talent the best for the future, what would it be?

EB: I think that I’m getting ready to do that one, I don’t there is one I would put in a time capsule yet. There are things I’m so proud of, but also, you know it’s so hard when you’re creative, I mean as a writer, yourself, when you see an article you wrote, there’s always something after the fact you wanna do better, or when you grow you can’t but look back and think “oh I wish I could do it again” but you can’t. So it’s hard for me to say that, because of my own personal growth, I wanna explore something new. I mean there moments I am proud of or experiences I take with me like working with Al Pacino or the great ladies of First Wives Club or working with Woody Allen. So those are amazing memories so me, but in terms of a full arch of a character, I am looking forward to that particular thing that makes me go “oh my god!” that represents what I can really do. I don’t think people have seen yet what I can really do. Only appetizers!

EC: I can’t wait for this film you’re talking about!

EB: I’m excited too! The last two years, this [book] has been my baby! It needed so much care and devotion. It was like being in labor for the past two years. Like this year I had to pass on a few things, including a Broadway show, to put this book out properly, which thankfully, I’m sure you’ve done your research because I can tell you’ve put a lot of care into this interview, I mean the fact that it’s number two on the New York Times Best Sellers List and the fact that it’s getting in the hands of all the girls who need it, and the meaningful connections I’m making in every city. I’m glad I’m able to be present for it, because it would have been sad to put it out in any other way.

EC: I hope that there is no critic that there that is bashing this book. I mean you deserve the critical acclaim. I mean this book is a beautiful thing, it isn’t trashy, you are out there helping these girls. It’s a positive thing.

EB: No! This has been received in such a beautiful way. It felt like a big hug! Even some of my guy friends have said, “oh my god, I need to be reminded of this.” It’s like we all have an adolescent girl in all of us. We’ve all been there. It’s just a lot of the issues are universal. And it’s the truth; I’m not pretending where everything is perfect and tied up in a pretty bow. There are times when we’re gonna have really great highs and lows, but what’s the choice what are we gonna do in those moments? Are we gonna be a victim, or are we gonna feel the feelings that have value and take action to change our situation, if we can.

Elizabeth Berkley's book "Ask Elizabeth" is currently on the New York Times Best Sellers List.

jLo Spices Things Up

Viva La Lopez! JLo brings the heat with “Papi,” her latest single from the upcoming Love?. With her third single from the still-yet-to-be-released album (fourth if you count “Louboutins”…fifth, if you count “Fresh Out The Oven”), Lopez has topped herself with this spicy dancefloor anthem produced by RedOne.

Much more than “Alejandro,” JLo’s new song is custom made for all those papi chulos out there. While most contemporary club songs are a bit too robotic, “Papi” has that sexy rhythm that just makes you wanna get all hot n’ sweaty n’ sexy on the dancefloor.

Combining the hot new sounds of the clubs with a little sweet Latin flavor – something reminiscent of 80s-era Gloria Estefan – “Papi” leaves the competition in flames, making the track RedOne’s brightest moment.

One more thing to thank Santa Maria for: no rent-a-rappers! JLo’s finally on her own and soon to be burning up the charts and the clubs with the sweltering sound of “Papi.” Along with the hit singles “On the Floor” and “I’m Into You,” plus the leaks “Invading My Mind,” “Everybody’s Girl” and “(What is) Love?,” Love? shows every sign of being the hottest album of the year. After years of being (unjustly) more top of the flops than top of the pops, JLo is back on top and on fiyah.

Wings of Faith

Samantha James may not be anywhere to be found on the Billboard 100 or mainstream radio, but she is by far the best new artist of the past few years. Mixing electronica, deep house, chill, pop, soul, and lounge music, James has sensually crafted the perfect musical recipe. You may have heard James’ “Rise,” which topped the dance charts a few years ago, or more recently, “Waves of Change” which Kaskade mixed into a dance floor anthem.

Her new song, “Wings of Faith” makes for one of the most infectious charity songs ever, and all proceeds will go towards the aid of Japan. One reason this track is so luscious is because it avoids the cheesy, insincere trap so many charity songs dive down deep into. “Wings of Faith” consists of a blissfully beautiful dance beat that drips over the artist’s smooth vocals.

If you enjoy this track, make sure to check out Rise and Subconscious, two of the best electronica/chill/pop albums ever produced, if only because James, unlike other dance artists, actually has a, gasp, bassline in her music!

Forever Your Girl

One of pop’s biggest mysteries ever has to be why Paula Abdul didn’t take advantage of her American Idol success and release more music during her time on the show. Sure, there were the crazy cool singles, “Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow” and “I’m Just Here For the Music,” but the woman had nearly a decade and no album? There was a time when Ms. Abdul gave the likes of Madonna and Janet Jackson a run for their money, but after 1995′s floptastic Head Over Heels, Abdul seemed a bit knocked out and gave up on music.

Now on iTunes, Paula Abdul’s collaboration with Shine 2009, “So Free” is actually quite an interesting dance track with a bit of a retro feel – it wouldn’t have been out of place on her 90s albums. A funky house track with a touch of acid jazz, “So Free” has more rhythm than most “dance” tracks out there now. It’s refreshing to listen to something that doesn’t sound like it was produced for robots on the dancefloor. The bad thing is that it is more a Shine 2009 song than a Paula Abdul one, but when she sings, she shines.

The question still remains: will Abdul ever release another album? It’s been nearly 16 years since her last proper LP, and fans are still waiting. Abdul herself is rather cold heartedly vague when asked about a possible LP album in the future. Obviously, Paula still has it, and for now “So Free” proves that Abdul will straight up be forever your girl.

Richfield's Reign

It takes quite a woman to be on the throne for 30 years, but Miss Richfield 1981 has reigned supreme all this time and has lived to tell about it. In her show “30 Years on the Throne,” Miss Richfield takes a journey back through her life, celebrating her reign as the top beauty of the tiny Minnesota town, where “butter is a spice and gravy is a beverage” as she says. Miss Richfield 1981 plays one night only this Saturday, April 30 at 14th Street Playhouse.

Former journalist and Minnesota native Russ King is the creator and star of Miss Richfield 1981. Since the creation of the show, King’s success has taken over theaters, cabarets and television. If you haven’t seen “her” on stage, you may have caught her on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Today Show, TLC’s Cake Boss and Weekends with Samantha Brown on The Travel Channel.

Now Miss R’s critically acclaimed show makes its way to Atlanta for one appearance. With her fabulous mix of off the wall humor and Midwestern charm, her reign is destined to continue well into the next decade.

Sweetest Taboos

Sade has shown through the years she is more than a smooth operator and more than a soldier of love: she is a seductress. She’s seduced us again with The Ultimate Collection.

Sade’s latest greatest hits collection covers (and uncovers) it all. From the love-making epics (“No Ordinary Love”), to the seductive dance tracks (“Smooth Operator”) and the romantic escapades (“Paradise”). There are the sappy sweet songs (“By Your Side”), the euphoric energies (“Sweetest Taboo”), plus some hidden gems (“Bullet Proof Soul”). The Ultimate Collection proves to be two discs to fulfill almost every desire.

But there are a few gems left off, like the super smooth “Somebody Broke My Heart,” the sweet ditty “Whan Am I Gonna Make A Living” and the bass-heavy “Turn My Back On You.” Even being a 2-disc set, this compilation cannot even begin to touch on the titillating tracks that fill up Sade’s six studio LPs.

But back to the songs that did make the cut. “Love is Found” is Sade’s first time making music not for for making love, but for full on, passionate, sweaty sex. On the other side, “I Would Have Never Guessed” makes for the perfect music to hold on to each other as the rain falls in the distance. “Still in Love With You” doesn’t quite hit the spot like the other two, but any Sade song is too sexy to skip.

But what would have been perfect would be lounge/chill remixes of Sade’s greatest hits. Instead we get a dated mix of “By Your Side” by The Neptunes and a bland remix of “The Moon and the Sky” featuring Jay-Z. While a bit of an anti-climax, a few drab remixes don’t diminish the heat the rest of the collection brings.

At the end of the night, nobody can deny the sensual pleasures Sade has given her audience through the years. Her voice, her music, her words – they all ooze with the tingling sexuality that has driven the world crazy by giving us the sweetest taboos.

Sade will be performing her greatest hits this summer on her “Soldier of Love World Tour,” which hits Atlanta July 12 and 13, because one night is never enough.

Collective Enchantment

In the words, the vocals, the production of LB Collective’s latest effort Waiting for Enchantment, there lies a bit of a step back in time when female singer-songwriters reigned supreme. It wasn’t too long ago that the likes of Paula Cole, Sarah McLachlan, Fiona Apple, and many others ruled the charts with their mix of talents in front of the mic and behind the scenes. It was around the time of Britney Spear’s debut that those singers began to be not-so-en-vogue with mainstream radio.

Now, it seems that Laura Benjamin and company have decided to bring that sound back, with a little facelift for modern times. Along with confessional, introspective lyrics, organic beats and intimate vocals, the thing that puts this group apart from other acts are Laura’s unique vocals.

Waiting for Enchantment doesn’t wait long to kick things off. Album opener “Something Different” shows the singer pondering on the subject of love over an easy-breezy soulful beat that let’s the listener that whatever the outcome of love may be, it’s gonna be alright.

It feels as if Natalie Merchant was in the studio during the recording of “I Got Nothin.’” That isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but in a way kind of makes the listener want to listen to a record by the 10,000 Maniacs.

“Waiting,” a track that is LB Collective at their most rock/pop, actually would not be such a bad idea for single consideration. With a strong melodic hook and sing-a-long vocals, the track may be not the best on the album, but is definitely the most radio friendly.

One of the most flavored song of the album is “A Reason,” which grinds to a blues/rock/country groove. Benjamin seems her most confident on the track, and with reason, it, more than any other recording she’s done, allows the singer to get loose.

“Tabula Rasa” has a dark, haunting feeling that evokes the feelings of the vocalist (and her listeners) down a road of jazz-touched rock/pop road that sounds like a mix of Paula Cole and Shawn Colvin. The artist slows things down a bit for the somber “Losing You,” a piano-ballad that shows Benjamin at her most intimate.

Short, with only six songs, Waiting for Enchantment does tend to make the listener want more from the group, never a bad thing! It will be interesting to see what else Laura Benjamin and her musical family will come up next, but until then, fans will be waiting.

Brilliant Art

After years of being compared to other “Art Wave” artists such as Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party, Art Brut have taken the genre to the next level. They’ve done so by creating an album more explosive and vibrate than any artist in their genre has ever done before. Brilliant! Tragic! proves to be the group’s most diverse and colorful record, making Art Brut vs. Satan pale in comparison, and judging by the response from that record, that is no small feat.

Lead singer Eddie Argos has described this album by comparing it to “dramedies.” That is what the album title derives its name from: its mixture of some seriousness and depth, yet with the slice of comedy that differentiates this band from all the others. To match the brilliance (and tragedy) of the record, the band brought in cartoonist Jamie McKlevie to design the album cover. If it doesn’t represent the title of the record, nothing can.

The comic relief may come from titles of the tracks such as “I Am the Psychic” and “Axel Rose,” but don’t be fooled, the band members’ talents make this album nothing to laugh at. “I Am the Psychic” may not prove that Art Brut has the powers of Miss Cleo (but then again, who does?,) but it does stand to show that the group can make some damn fine music. Even at under three minutes long, the song needs to have a future of being a single.

The band can definitely make you laugh and dance, especially the highlight “Lost Weekend.” The energy from tracks like it, such as “Clever Clever Jazz” and “Axel Rose,” definitely rock the house. Slower songs like “Sealand” and “Bad Comedian” may not be quite as infectious as the rest, but even so, the personality comes through.

Whether or not the listener sees this record as brilliant (they may see it as tragic, making the title even more genius – it allows for press reviews to have a field day with it), the mixture of humor and talent in the record come across as fierce as one of the electric guitar riffs. It’s tempting to compare Eddie Argos to John Lennon (very tempting) when it comes to lyrically relevancy and irrelevancy, so I will. True, Art Brut aren’t The Beatles, but they won the battle against Satan, and now with Brilliant! Tragic!, they have won the battle against a tragic ending of their art.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cutting Deep Into Scissor Sisters's Jake Shears

It would be impossible to put a time stamp on the music of Jake Shears and his band the Scissor Sisters. Basically every decade of popular music has been covered in their three LP's, the latest being Night Work, a fabulous concoction of pop, disco, rock, soul, new-wave, etc., (see what I mean?) Commercial success worldwide, opening for Lady Gaga on one of the biggest tours of the year, and being the subject of a coffee table book by famed photographer Tim Hailand hasn't seemed to make the leading man lose his focus, which is about creating music and absorbing the music and words from his icons.
Mr. Shears appears to be a man who will be one day regarded the way one thinks about Elton John or Freddie Mercury: a singer/songwrtier who creates from deep within his soul, allowing him to dive deep into ours.

Eric Chavez: Let's talk a little about the book [One Day in The Life], how did this idea come about with your friend Tim Hailand?

Jake Shears: Well we've known each other for ten years, and he's a good friend and great photographer and he shot me for a few magazines. It was a little piece called “Day in a Life,” that's kind of where were got the idea for the book. We just thought that once this album campaign started we would make the book, and I talked to Elton and Kylie and they were happy to write in it. It was just a matter of picking a day and going for it.

EC:Speaking of Kylie, I know you've written for her over the years,and I must say that when “I Believe in You” came out, I had that song on a loop! You also worked on Aphrodite and some unreleased material from the X album, just wondering if you'll be working with her in the future?

JS: Yeah! Always! I hope to always collaborate with her. She's a great friend, and she's really fun in the studio. We have a good time together and enjoy being creative together. She's one of my favorite people to be in the studio with, so I would hope so!

EC: I love the stuff you guy's do together, it was after Body Language, and no one knew what to expect from her, and out came this new sound. It was awesome! That brings me to the next question, now I know you're touring with Lady Gaga: what were your expectations when you met her, and what about her surprised you?

JS: I met her last summer, was introduced to her by Elton [John] and she had the idea for us to tour together. What were my expectations? I didn't have any going into the Monsters Ball Tour because you never know what the score is gonna be. The surprise was how amazing she is, and how her crew and dancers and the whole show is a wonderful family. We really had a great time. The other thing is we got along great with the fans, we got so much love from the room every night. I think we gained some fans. Her fans really seemed to welcome up with open arms, so it kind of couldn't be better.

EC: Wow, that's amazing! But you know we wouldn't even be talking here if it weren't for your band's success. You have been massive in the UK and had tons of success here. My next question is from one of your biggest fans. He heard you guys are doing a musical called “Tales of the City” and he was just wondering a little bit about it.

JS: I'm heading to San Francisco in one week to start production. Previews start in San Francisco on May 19 and then it opens June 1 and runs through July. I've been working on it for four years and it's been a real fun project. Something to put a lot of love into. It's gonna be wicked! I'm a little overwhelmed because it's a massive undertaking. It's a big show, with a big cast, and a lot of music, and a lot of story. It's intense, but I'm excited about it and the team. I'm doing it with Jason Moore and Jeff Whitty who worked on Avenue Q, and Babydaddy wrote a few songs with us. It's been a great team.

EC: I've noticed that you've gotten a lot of press coverage about your stage presence and sexuality, but when I think of you, well I do think of those things, too, but also about your songwriting, and how, I hate to say this, you think outside the box. You're so different, but your accessible. There's no formula.

JS: If I knew a formula I would use it. I don't, unfortunately. I just hope that we can be a band that's kind of ever changing at the same time staying who were are. That's really important, and not making the same record over and over again.

EC: Well, if you don't have a formula, do you have a songwriting process? If you care to share your secrets.

JS: It's all of the above. There's no rhyme or reason. Could come from a phrase or lyrics about a subject. It could come from a lick from something else. You could always try to mimic something and what you end up with is completely different. My favorite music that we've made, what they have in common is in my mind there's always a room or vision of a place, and setting that's very vivid when I'm writing the song and singing it. It's like they have their own little bedroom.

EC: This is a hard question. Let's say you were to select one song to show to people who have never heard you to represent what your band is about, just one song that was released, or even unreleased. What would it be and why?

JS: I would say probably “Mary.” I don't know that it really sum everything up, but it's my favorite and it has a great universal message that might still mean something in a hundred years if anyone were to listen to it.

EC: That's a great track, but my favorite song is your new single “Any Which Way.” I love the bass line. Music doesn't have a bass line anymore! There is dance music out there by Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Katy Perry, they're stuff is electronic but it doesn't have a bass! I appreciate you and a few other artists for putting a bass line in!

JS: When we were making that song, Babydaddy put that bass line in and it's just one of those great little songs that we wrote in the afternoon and a great song to play live.

EC: I read that you worked for Paper Magazine as a music critic, what kind of critic were you? Tongue-n-cheek? Harsh? Fair?

JS: I didn't do much critique, I would more interview people and things that interested me. When I actually started getting into things I cared about and interviewing people I was interested in, my tone changed a bit. I still like to do interviews with people that I like and that interest me. I had a terrible interview with Stockard Channing once that was really horrifying. That would be really funny to go back and find it. I kind of thought that's what I was gonna end up doing. It was a great way for me to meet creative people that I admire and interrogate them about their work and hope that a little bit of that rubbed off on me.

EC: I think it did. Now with all these things going on, when can fans expect album number four?

JS: We've been making music and yeah I think we'll put some stuff out too, I don't know if it's an album, but there will be music out sooner than later, but I'm not sure what form it's gonna take. Some really different stuff.

EC: Speaking of different, I respect you guys for not selling out.

JS: Oh listen, we have no problem selling out! Lord knows I've sucked a devil dick a few times. But I think you can do that and still keep your integrity.

EC: Whatever you do in the other ways in fine, but you don't sell out in the big way, like to corporate propaganda, you know?

JS: Yeah, I understand what you mean.

EC: One more thing, I know you've done countless interviews, but has there ever been a topic of subject you've wanted to talk about, but were never asked?

JS: I always love talking about bands that I listened to when I was growing up. There's a little bit in the book about a singer named Lux Interior who goes with The Cramps who really meant a lot to me. I love going back and thinking about all my favorite music memories and bands. It's pretty incredible to meet all those people sometimes.

The Nine Lives of Kat DeLuna

Back in 2007, club music was nowhere to be heard on mainstream radio, but with her first hit single "Whine Up" Kat DeLuna changed that. It was THE summer-anthem of that year, making music generally made for the clubs, something that maintain radio fans were beginning to crave. Since then, the sound has exploded, and like disco and house music before it, the club-rave-techno sound Kat helped to create has taken over. Her first album, 9 Lives, spawned other hit singles "Run the Show" and "Am I Dreaming," and since then, fans have been waiting anxiously for her followup LP. Inside Out, which has seen its European release, is still awaiting the time when it is to hit the shelves in the United States. Her last single "Party O' Clock" has woken up the world and gotten it dancing, and now, just in time for summer, Kat's upcoming single "Dancing Tonight" will surely set the dancefloor on fire once again, in the US and around the world.

I've heard Inside Out, and it's a wonderful cd. A great step forward from 9 Lives. This album has been pushed back and pushed back so many times. When can fans expect for a US release?

Right now we don't have the exact date chosen. It's been pushed back because things are being changed and done to make pure it has the perfect beat. It is scheduled to come out during summertime. Very Kat DeLuna! The European version is a lot of dance tracks, upbeat, party, party, party! But when I'm here at home, besides the party, there's also the beautiful ballads. That's the difference between the European and the American version is it has a little bit more of Kat DeLuna, not only the pop/dance music artist but it has the singer, so I'm really excited about it and I can't wait for everyone to hear it!

Just curious. Is there going to be a lot of Latin influence on the US relase of Inside Out?

Kat Deluna you know has a sound, is a mixture of a lot of things. It's pop, a little bit of house, metro and Latin flavor, so no matter what I do, it always has that Latin twist to it.

You have an amazing voice and I'd love to hear you do some more opera.

In this album you guys are going to hear that. The American version has more vocals. I've done more opera, too.

You have worked with RedOne, who is getting a lot more press lately for his work with artists like Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and of course yourself. What is it like in the studio with him?

Well RedOne is a very talented guy. In 2007 he was just starting as well as I was. And we worked on a very wonderful album, my first album 9 Lives. He's so worldly because he's African, speaks Spanish, speaks French, and I'm this American girl of Dominican decent, and I speak Spanish and English and I have this dancehall background. All these elements together made this sound [of my debut]. After that sound was given birth, he worked with other artists and evolved into building new things which I am so applauding him for that. On this album [Inside Out] he has worked on a couple of songs. When you guys hear "Dancing Tonight" the US version, you're gonna know that Kat's back! You know I think in life it's not about the hype of things, it's about being able to work with someone that you and that person together can comfortably create magic and just be there for the art of music.

You know, your influence and image for women is wonderful. You're sexy, but you're not putting yourself out there for men, not exploiting yourself for fame. Tell me about your image now.

I'm bringing back the essence of Kat DeLuna, the girl, that pop artist, not only that, but represent girl power, that's what I wanna be. I've always gone for that, but this time I'm definitely ready for that 100%. I just feel like a lot of artist don't like to admit it because of the pressure behind it, I know I am a role model. There are little girls looking up to me, more even in the Latino community. I'm the first Dominican pop artist to ever make it big in the international scene. Through my music I wanna give them an example of how to make it in life, no matter what. It is a very hard task to make it as Latino women in the world, I've been so blessed. For example, I just came back from Madagascar. I went to do a show there. I was scheduled to do a 30-minute set. But when I get to the stadium,which was made to hold 50,000 people, it had 30,000 more people there, so it had 80,000 people! I made a 30-minute show into a 2-hour show and I don't have a 2-hour show! It was so emotional that show, that if tomorrow, I'm not here, I think that i've done a little bit of my job here.

I know that your sound have been incredibly influencial. You were one of the first to bring the club sound to the mainstream back in 2007, but who are some of your influences?

Yes. I was the first artist to bring that sound, that very electro house, Latin world beat sound. I took a risk in 2007. I feel the person who opens the door, isn't always the one who gets the success, it's always the one who comes seconds. That's why me, I'm coming back even more evolved. Inspiration wise? I love Gloria Estefan, I think she was a big important role model for me, especially as an American Latina, she was the first to do that Latin sound with an American beat to it. I love Selena, I love Beyonce, Aretha Franklin, Juan Luis Guerra, amazing talent. I love people who are able to create big things out of nothing.

Lady Gaga: Born this Way To Express Yourself

After months of anticipation and time in the delivery room, Lady Gaga has finally given birth to her premiere single, “Born This Way,” from her upcoming album of the same name. In mere hours, the song reached the top of the iTunes singles charts and has already received thousands of mix reviews from her “monsters” and casual fans. But now that her new baby is born, in what way will this change music, as the singer-songwriter claimed.

The lyrics follow a recent trend of self-love. Recently, artists from Pink, with her track “Fuckin' Perfect” to Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” have made major hits of a similar theme. With Lady Gaga on board, it seems that in pop culture, it is cool to be you. That truly is a positive image to portray, and it is something that has been missing in music since Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” topped the charts.

The song is infectious, though, showing that Gaga still has a good ear for a strong rhythm. With its up-in-the-air-club sound, this track will undoubtedly be the gay anthem for the upcoming summer, but does it compare to staple gay anthems such as “I Will Survive” like Sir Elton John claimed? No. It wasn’t born that way.

Mainly the reason the track probaly won't be on any top ten best gay anthems ever any time soon is that it kind of sounds like another classic gay anthem, Madonna's 1989 hit single, "Express Yourself." Similar is the key word here. Gaga does throw in some of her own flavor into the song, but one can't help to imagine her listening to "Express Yourself" on a loop as she wrote the song.

What’s the problem, one asks? Well, for a woman who prides herself on originality and her uniqueness, to release a song so similar to such a famous song, written and performed by Madonna, who Gaga has been more than influence by in the past, leads to the question how original and unique is Ms. Gaga? She certainly has had her creative moments in the past, on album tracks such as “Paper Gangsta” and “So Happy I Could Die,” but her sound and look have been heavily influenced by the likes of Madonna, Cher , Grace Jones. Not to mention the remixers of the past 15 years.

Interestingly enough, blogger Perez Hilton has called “Born This Way” Lady Gaga’s “Like a Prayer,” perhaps because the melody is so similar from the single Madonna released right after the classic? In comparison to Gaga’s other tracks, musically “Born This Way” doesn’t have the same fierceness of “Telephone” or the iconic punch of “Bad Romance.”

Now that Lady Gaga has let the world see her new baby, finally the months of hype and hysterical can be put to rest. Will this change music and be the song for the generation? Probably not. Will it be a #1 worldwide smash? Probably so.

The end result: “Born This Way” has come out to be the love child of Madonna, circa 1989, and a Madonna remix from 2000.

Listen to the song here

“Born This Way” was released on iTunes and on Atlanta radio on February 11, 2011.

Inside Aiden Leslie

Sex appeal, a smooth voice, and his suave ways combine to make the next big pop star. Influenced by acts from Elvis to Erasure, Aiden Leslie has been in love with music from his early days, and it shows in his art. His sound blends pop, hip-hop and lets a little bit of dance influence sneak in to make pop perfection. His past hits such as “Please,” showed great promise for this performer and his new single, “World’s Away,” which has gotten its share of play on Atlanta's dance floors, features the talent of female rapper Farrah Burns, whose flow matches that of early 90’s rapper goddess’s such as Queen Latifah, Monie Love, and Jazzy P. Now back for another round after a short hiatus, Aiden Leslie is better than ever.

I saw the new video for “Worlds Away”. Great stuff! What gave you the inspiration to bring in a female rapper? I know that today there is Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj, but Farrah [Burn] reminds me of an early 90’s female rapper.

Rap and hip-hop is something that I love very much, so in my mind, as an artist I wanted to bring that element to my new single. When I first started writing “Worlds Away,” I didn’t really write it thinking that I was going to have a rapper, but after we started writing the song, we came to the bridge and we were listening to the break down and it just came to me: this is the perfect opportunity for somebody to come and do 16-bars. At around the same time I had met Farrah Burns. I was like the universe came together.

Can fans expect a full studio album in the near future?
Absolutely. This is my single for getting back into the game. I’m working on the follow-up single and album now.

I know you have been taking a break from music from the past two years. What made you want to write again?

What really inspired me to come back is that I was so low for so long. When I say low, I mean not happy, and I was not feeling fulfilled on many levels. When I put music out of my life, that was definitely a conscious decision, but as time went on, I realized how much it was a part of my life, and just the fact that I didn’t have it anymore really changed me. It brought me to a bottom in many ways, but that’s not a bad thing because it brought me back to what I love, which is my music.

Your new video is now on VH1 along with so many artists, but who inspires you?
I really love Erasure, George Michael, of course I love Madonna. I love pop music, so I’m heavily influenced by pop music. People that are artists that are also songwriters really influenced me.

And what about today’s music, who are you listening to today?

I mean, I love Rihanna, I love Brandy, I love Jay-Z, I love Eminem. I think they are doing really cool work right now.

Lots of songs on the radio right now are very monotonous, with that electro-r&b-dance sound, but your song definitely sticks out, congratulations on that.
Well, that makes me feel good. For me, yes I listen to music out there today, but I also start from a place, a kind of dancey place out there. For me, I love hip-hop beats. So that was a starting point for me. Then I also love organic songs as well. It evokes a lot of emotion. .Of course pop music is a big influence so when you put the clear pop melodies against that, you know, that’s what’s really inspiring me now. I call it “hip-pop.” That’s the term that I’m coining. Yes, I have a rapper in my song, but certainly that’s not, I’m not trying to be a hip-hop artist.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Q&A with Atlanta Artist of the Week: Jon Secada

Along with Gloria Estefan and Julio Iglesias, Jon Secada paved the way for the future Latin explosion that is still on fire today. With worldwide smashes such as “Just Another Day,” “Angel,” and “Whipped,” Secada went on to become a music icon. In the past years, Secada’s career has still had steam, writing solid hits for other artists like Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Mandy Moore, and Gloria Estefan. Now, after a handful of cover albums, Secada is ready to spin back into the world of Latin pop, with his first proper LP since 2005’s Same Dream. Otra Vez, along with its first single “Dejame Querete (Mi Secreto)” have already set the Latin charts on fire, making Otra Vez the album Atlanta needs to own of the week.

Eric Chavez: First of all, I just want to congratulate you on “Dejame Querete,” it sounds amazing!

Jon Secada: Thank you brother, it is the new single from my first Spanish CD in seven years. It sort of reminds of my first CD and I’m really anxious to see if people are really going to like it.

EC: You have done so much television lately, especially on Mire Quien Baila. Do you think the exposure from those shows will help push the new disc?

JS: That’s why the CD means so much to me, because it’s been a while since I’ve done something like this. This all started back when I was doing a television show. I did the Latin American version of American Idol years ago. It kinda got the ball started on this CD.

EC: It was all over the news that you got seriously injured while on the show, Mire Quien Baila, how is your recovery coming along?

JC: I’m hanging in there brother! When I look back on the video, I realize how bad the fall was.

EC: Now in terms of the music on the new disc, how would you define the sound?

JC: This CD will be very pop-oriented and dance-y/fusion, but still from a Latin angle. That’s my thing, to try to always combine styles and make them my own.

EC: Now you have written some amazing songs for other artists, such as Mandy Moore, Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan. Has there ever been a song you gave away that you wish you hadn’t?

JC: Not really. Well, that’s happened to me sometimes, like with “She’s All I Ever Had.” That was a huge hit for Ricky Martin. I wrote that for myself, but he heard the demo and fell in love with it and one thing led to another and I ended up giving it to him. At the end of the day, my career started as a songwriter and I’m proud of that, and I can always record versions of the songs myself.

EC: You have worked with Gloria Estefan for so many years, what is it like collaborating with her?
JC: It was wonderful. She’s a star in every since of the word. Working with her was always a pleasure. [She’s] very talented and knows exactly what she wanted. I can never say enough. She’ll always been a very important part of my career.

EC: Now the Latin explosion of the late 90’s has turned into a mainstream kind of thing. How does it feel to have been part of the early 90’s Latin scene, making way for future artists?

JC: It feels great to see what’s going on in the music scene. I’m proud that I was a part of the Latin scene in the early 90’s. Before me, Gloria, Julio Iglesias, and Santana did it and it’s a blessing to be on that list of artists.

EC: You’ve had so many hits, but if you were to put a song in a capsule for future generations to hear, what would it be?

JC: It’s all about “Just Another Day.” It was the first song I wrote for that record, the first song the record company heard, first single I recorded in both languages, the first demo of mine that anyone paid any attention to. I will never forget the day I wrote it. That will always stand out because it was truthfully the first of many things.

EC: Recently, you did the whole Chippendales thing, how does it feel to be almost 50 and still a sex symbol?

JC: I love it! I’m almost 50, but I’m also in the best shape of my life!

EC: And lastly, has there ever been a question you have always wanted to be asked, but no one ever asked you?

JC: At this point, I think most of my career and life and the kind of, I guess, artist I am,
the minute people talk to me, they find out what I am all about. What you see is what you get, so to speak. I am a working musician that got lucky and successful at another level. I started my career as a working musician in Miami and I’m still a working musician! Friends and people in the industry, when I come across then, I’m still Juan Secada!

Otra Vez was released on February 8, 2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Better Than Yesterday

In the past 20 years, no other female pop star, aside from Madonna, has had such an impact on the world of music. From “I Should Be So Lucky” to “Word is Out” to “Spinning Around,” Minogue has had hit after hit worldwide. In the U.S., though, aside from her Fever-era singles such as “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” and “Love at First Sight,” Kylie hasn’t had much commercial success. She has, however, managed to attract quite a following here in the States.

Her most recent LP, Aphrodite, with its disappointing first single, “All the Lovers,” and its second, “Get Outta My Way,” which is quite possibly the best pop-dance track of the past five years, has shown her fans and the world that Kylie is back.

This time around, on her third EP from the bunch, Kylie dabbles with an electro-pop/country-pop fusion. Sounding like Wynonna Judd-meets-Soft Cell, “Better Than Today” shows the singer stretching her talent both lyrically and sonically. It’s not the first time Minogue has experimented with the country sound: both 1997’s “Cowboy Style” and 2007’s “Sensitized” have seen Kylie in this area before. But now, gone is twangy two-step of her previous country-flavored track; in its place is a more standard, modern take on country, watering down her sound just a bit and replacing the sass with sugar.

To mix things up, the EP features a few dance remixes by Bills & Hurr, the Japanese Popstars, and Monarchy, none which would make one too impressed. To be fair, though, Kylie hasn’t had amazing remixes since her Light Years-era. The final track on the EP, a lounge version of “All the Lovers,” shows some improvement from the original, but all the production that was done after, it can’t save this song from the sappy trap it’s in.

“Better Than today” is perhaps not the best choice for a third single; Aphrodite songs such as the euphoric “Everything is Beautiful” or the eery “Closer” would have been much more colorful options for a release. It’s never too late, though, the momentum of Aphrodite still remains strong, both here in the states and across the pond.

Even with its faults, “Better Than Today” remains a stronger, better written, sonically diverse track than anything out there by Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, or Britney Spears have put out in the, well, ever. Proving once again that Kylie is still only second to Madonna when it comes to the perfection of pop.

Let's Get Loud

Good music not only requires amazing influences, it demands it. With such influences as The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Face, and The Jam, it is only destined that The Booze become a noteworthy rock band in their own right. And so they do. With their LP At Maximum Volume, the band has seemed to have groomed their sound to not only let their influences come through, but let a little of their own unique brand of music shine as well.

The final cut, “Borderline” may be, dare I say, their “Gimme Shelter.” The most haunting and stunning track on the LP, “Borderline” lets the juices from The Rolling Stone seep deep into their sound the most. Even the touch of gospel soul lies beneath the rugged production lines. But don’t be mistaken, every second of the track also let’s the personalities of Chaz Tolliver and Randy Michaels break through.

An Atlanta-based band, the dusty sounds of southern rock does spike up every now and then, sounding more Lynyrd Skynyrd or Ray Parker Jr. than anything else, making the perfect soundtrack to a lone bar in the middle of nowhere. This sound comes out more than usual on the tracks “Straight to Hell” and “The Scene,” songs that belongs on a jukebox.

“New York Women,” another Rolling Stones-esque track, doesn’t quite catch as much magic as “Borderline,” and that’s most likely because it sounds as if it could have been written by Mick Jagger himself. There’s nothing original about it, making it sound more like an homage than something new. But the band does get their most exciting on the track “Wild One,” and even though it sounds like it was written while listening to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (The Rolling Stones version, not the Aretha Franklin one!) it still has its own spirit.

Blogger Perez Hilton calls the band “equal parts Winehouse and some lo-fi garage band down the street," but anyone who actually listens to the record knows that simply isn’t true. Lo-Fi isn’t really how one should label their sound, and they are about as far from Winehouse as one could get (their better).

At the end of the day, this album is for rock purists who miss the old sound of bare bones rock. Luckily the sound of the neo-rock/punk/pop is no where to be found along the tracks on At Maximum Volume. If you want to hear something raw, exciting, punk without the pretention, and something completely real, it’s time to play The Booze’s new LP at maximum volume.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Rated XXX

"If you can't fuck to it, it ain't music," says Eric Chavez, otherwise known to his dozens of fans as XXX. "I thought of that name, XXX, I made it up! Obviously, I want to shock my fans and right-wing America. You know my upcoming album "XXX" has already been BANNED in China and France! I mean they just can't handle me, cha know?"

Chavez, or XXX, 21, was born in 1989. "I'm very young, and quite innocent to tell the truth, but that doesn't mean I can't CHALLANGE what the world has to think about SEX." And he has. His first singles have blown up on the charts in New Zealand and Hawaii. Now about to make his first show, "SEXXX in the City," which will give the public a fly-on-the-wall-view of XXX and his life. "This show will be full of DRAMA. Mark my words people, my life is CRAZY. Everyday is a new day and I just can't help but get myself into drama."

When asked to describe his sound, XXX sits back and thinks for a minute, playing his fingertips on his forehead. "Look, my music is new, it's fresh. It's very edgy and different and very, very sexy. It's dark, but at the same time very good, I mean many people call it deep, and I know that's true. I am very deep."

His sound is said by Time Magazine and Vogue to soon change the world of music, but even XXX has his icons he looks up to. "I have so many influences, I mean obviously Madonna is a big one, since she invented sex, and Sade, because I love sexual sounds, and Prince, because he opened the door for a man to be sexual. Him and Marvin Gaye.And Daddy Yankee, because his music drips with sex. I think you can see how good my influences are in my music, because it's well, amazing."

On the other hand, XXX isn't shy about who hasn't influenced him. "Katy Perry to me is the musical equivalent of going soft, it's just shit music. Her and Akon, and don't forget Usher, Kanye West, Taylor Swift. You can't fuck to their music. I mean shit. My music will change sex, their music will decline it."

Aside from artists, XXX says he gets his artistic needs fullfilled in other ways. "I get a lot of my influences from my ass. It's just so firm and round. I'm very nalgon and everyone knows it, everyone. Sometimes I like to play with my ass and then write songs with the very hand that was in my hole. I've written some of my best songs like that! "SEXXX" and "Wet Dream" were written AS I was playing with my ass. The very same moment!"

Now, his ass and himself, a sex symbol, XXX is seeing the pressures of being a star. "As soon as I started putting my songs out on the radio, all the Latino hunks came out wanting to be with me. I mean Daddy Yankee, Oscar De La Hoya, Jaime Camil, Jerry Rivera, and tons more. It was sad seeing Enrique Iglesias cry over me, but I told him to dump that tennis player for me. But the money, you know?"

Chavez, a Mexican-American, speaks on his heritage with pride. "I'm very proud of being Latino, of being Mexican. All the Mexicans love me. I will do a Spanish version of my debut album. Only I think I will call it "Nalgas" to push the sexual boundries."

XXX will push those boundaries on his album, tackling such taboo subjects as s&m."No one has ever written about s&m before, and I wanted to bring this underground sexuality to the mainstream, I wanted to shock everyone and make people see how avant garde that I am. Rolling Stone called it an 'emotional tapestry'."

Already donating his time to teaching the world about sex and lust, XXX has made his Hollywood friends through various charities. "My best friends in the business are now Victoria Beckham, Madonna, and Oscar De La Hoya. I just went to lunch with La Toya Jackson and Janet Jackson the other day. Both were so nice and Janet kept telling me how she knew all along that La Toya was the one with the talent."

It hasn't all been fun and fetishes for XXX since he got signed, record execs have given him some issues. "I wanted to show my ass on the cover. In a leather g-string or jock strap of course! With my body against the wall, one arm up. It was so sexual that the HOMOPHOBES at Warner Bros. could not handle it! That sexual photo will be on the back cover now, but the front is just as erotic: it's my face in an s&m mask. I just want the world to know that sex exists, and that gay Mexican males are just as sexual as the rest of the world!"

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Roseanne Brings Roseannearchy to Atlanta: Talks Politics, Music, and More

The 'Domestic Goddess" is back and at it again! Hot off the heels of the release of her new book "Roseannearchy: Dispatches From the Nut Farm," Roseanne is making her rounds on a nationwide book tour. Since one of her biggest fan bases is located in Atlanta, the former sitcom star made her way to Atlana's own OutWrite Bookstore and Coffe House on January 19th for a reading and a signing of her new publication.

Is the book any good? If the response from the audience as Roseanne read aloud from her her new book, the answer is an astounding: HELL YES. The New York Times Best-Selling author explores various topics from hypocrasy to marriage in the only way she knows: a sharp wit and humor.

Always a woman who has always pushed for charge, Roseanne explained at the book signing "i'm for the legalization of hemp, so that we can have some cheap fuel, housing, food, clothing for pennies." and that "as soon as they took hemp out of women's hands, this world went to shit," says Roseanne.

With nine seasons of Roseanne, it would be quite a feat for the actress to pick her favorite show of the bunch, "there's not just one..I have to think about that," Barr responded. Music was always a part of Roseanne's sitcom, and when it comes to the authors personal favorite, she replies "oldies, rhythm & blues, soul, I like rap, too." On whether her and her former co-stars will ever get back together for a television special, Roseanne reponds "yes. I do think there will be a Roseanne reunion."

In her show, Roseanne was always tackling taboo topics such as gay rights and discrimination, and Barr explains why she chose that route. "I did and I'm very proud that I did it, and I always say I did it because I have a gay brother and a lesbian sister who i always saw what happend to them growing up in Salt Lake City. Very right-wing. My brother had his nose broken nine times by the time he was nine years old. Of course they always have their other reasons, but we knew what it was. I just always knew it was so wrong, it really pissed me off, says Roseanne."

Never one to shy away from touchy topics, Roseanne also spoke about how to avoid the negative aspects of menopause. "Nobody knows! It's very hard. I think meditation helped me most to stay calm. Don't pick up that ax and kill that family, even if you really want to! Just know that your body is turning on you, and you're gonna be dead soon," Barr reponds.

One of the most controversial moments of all time wasn't when Roseanne was on-set, but off. The actress caught major flack when she sang "The Star-Stangled Banner" off-key before a baseball game in 1991. Even President George H. W. Bush called the perfomance "disgraceful". Showing her ability to laugh at herself, when asked if she would ever sing the national anthem again, Barr reponded, "I would, if I had, what, tone-harp? And start in the right key for a change"

The Five Best Artists Atlanta ISN'T Playing

For such a city to be so diverse, with cultures from around the world populating Atlanta, the music being played on mainstream radio and popular night clubs is rather bland. Fortunately, there are a handful of artists out there, who, while may not be mainstream, will put some spice into your iPod.

5. Collective Efforts

The freshest group in the hip-hop/rap genre. Relying more on smooth, chill beats and politically-conscious lyrics much more than rims and hoes for their music, this Atlanta-based crew have taken rap to a higher level. While this band does have a strong cult following, their musical efforts, currently, haven't cracked any top 40 charts, yet.

Download: Tunnel Vision

4. Incognito

The U.K.-based band has given a new face to r&b by breathing soul into the genre and allowing it to take shape with funk and acid jazz. Putting talent first, not image, the band have yet to find their audience here in the States. While their hit-single "N.O.T." did get moderate play on Atlanta's smooth jazz radio station, as most know by now, that station is now de-funked.

Download: N.O.T.

3. Amr Diab

As big as Madonna in the MIddle East, Amr Diab adds some pop flavor to the irrisistable sound of the desert. With a career spanning over 25 years, Diab has had his collection of hits. He's maintained his successful career by adding some serious heat to the Middle Eastern sound. Diab can go anywhere from sexy to serious within a span of a single song, but it is his voice, which is as hot as the Sahara, that makes him a legend.

Download: Allem Alby

2. Samantha James

Her music drops slowly into your soul. With ripples of rhythm flowing towards the listener song by song, word by word, Samantha James has found her sound by mixing waves of lounge with sprinkles of electronica, making one of the most surreal, yet mesmerizing albums of the past ten years. Solely by listening to the artists latest LP, Subconscious, one cannot help but let the luscious lyrics, vivacious vocalsand mellow melodies dive deep into your subconscious. While other new female artists (cough, Katy Perry) rely too much on nursery rhyme-like lyrics and bland melodies, James dives deep into her soul.

Download: Rise

1.Los Amigos Invisibles

The kings of clubs all over the world, this band is by far the best underground group, well, ever. With a recipe of latin rhythms, disco funk, and smooth jazz, Los Amigos Invisibles have created some of the freshest, and funkiest music out there. The current state of Latin music, with its autotuned, vulgar-but-by-no-means-sexy lyrics by the likes of Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull crossing over onto the pop charts, is in dire need of a new direction and the boys of Los Amigos Invisibles are out to lead the way and make it funky!

Download: Una Disco Llena

Kween of the Night


Like the cover itself, everything about nerkween’s music, from the structure to the lyrics, is somewhat of a black swan. Never conforming to, well, any sort of convention, Atlanta-based singer-songwriter Monica Arrington, also known as nerdkween, is back on the scene with her sophomore album. With a semi-strong local cult following from the success of her debut, Synergy, nerdkween has made quite a name for herself in Atlanta as both an artist and a live act. But the question remains, can the artist avoid the sophomore slump?

An album defined by the sound of dissonance, this LP isn’t for everybody, but there are some fun spots. “Bird Twitters” gets the prize sweetest melody of the bunch, and with its minimalistic sound and the different-but-still-fun strum of the banjo along with her distorted vocals, makes for the singer’s most interesting moment. On the other hand, with no progression in the song, even though it clocks in at 3:29, the sound loses its initial punch after a while.

Hitting a dark point on the album, the track “Drown,” with lyrics like “I can’t bear these days,/You and I aren’t safe, to chase the haze away/Let’s just be who we are, even if we fall,” could either be about a spiritual rebirth or suicide. Even “Such Grace,” a lyrical love song, combined with the lo-fi, minimalist sound, is just as disheartening and weary as “Drown.”

To be frank, with only seven songs on the record, it was an odd choice for the singer to include short, instrumental tracks on the LP. Perhaps there is an attempt to include these tracks as a segue-way between songs and as a cool-down ending, but similar to other interludes on other albums, these by no means hold the interest of the listener. What is really disappointing about the final track. “…a year of the Dragon” lies within the fact that is if the album’s most innovative, fascinating production. One can only imagine where nerkween could have gone with the song lyrically.

As limited as nerdkween’s vocal range is, when it comes to the album itself, vocals take a back seat to the art. Even with its slice of pretension, the album does come off as real and valid by exploring different aspects of life in stark-naked confessional manner. It’s that alone that makes this artist worthy of more profit, than loss.

A Greener Motive

Ulterior Motives

With its distinct, haunting qualities, Ulterior Motives, the new EP by citizenGreen could be one of the best Atlanta-based produced records of the year. Not the typical southern sound of rap or indie rock, citizenGreen ventures off into a space of minimalist electronica. And even though the album isn’t quite lounge, there is an “after dark” club feeling to the entire record; something to listen to after a night of dancing.

The EP starts off majestically with “Follow Me,” a dark, dramatic production which combines the electronic sounds of the ’80s, the ’90s and the ’00s to make what proves to be one of the most memorable, if not infectious, moments on the record.

If any of these tracks could be called radio-friendly, that title would go to “Motive6732.” While not a conventional Top 40 track, this is the only track on the album with a clear lyrical structure throughout the song and the electronic flute that touches the track throughout makes it for a captivating downtempo-electronica moment on the EP.

The album peaks with “Greenhouse Effect,” with its mix of drungy percussion and euphoric trance-like production. “No Tomarrow” is another highlight on the EP, with its infectious minimalist production. “Foiled the Ruse” sticks out as the only track on the EP to be more influenced by hip-hop than electronica, bearing little resemblance to anything else on the record.

“A Clever Ruse” ventures off into the darker scene, while “Float3r” floats onto a smoother wave of music, perhaps being the closest track resembling current day lounge/electronica artists such as Samantha James and Late Night Allumai.

Only 100 physical copies were printed (though there are unlimited digital copies available), but like the website of the EP’s record company says, it’s homemade, so you know it’s fresh. Even though the record is definitely not your stypical sing-a-long-to-the-hits EP, there is something intriguing about the album, especially at a time when electronca is in full swing with many underground artists (such as Samantha James) beginning to reach fame in their own right.

Atlanta-based producer Chris Amell, AKA citizenGreen, may not reached stellar sales with this EP, but perhaps that isn’t his goal. If his goal were to make an impressive EP with interesting electronic arrangements and an ecclectic mix of smooth, dark, edgy and euphoric tracks that all somehow transition from one to another smoothly, then mission accomplished