CD reviews: Cyndi, Rihanna

HMO050916CYNDICyndi Lauper, Detour. Girls just want to have… a country album? If you’re Cyndi Lauper and your repertoire is as delightfully ADHD as hers — the American Songbook, pop ear-candy, the blues, a damn musical (she won a Tony for Kinky Boots) — the next “logical step” is, well, inevitably illogical. But hearing the “Time After Time” singer channel good ol’ honky-tonk alongside a mélange of veterans isn’t so unusual after all; in fact, Lauper sings this collection of country classics as if she never even turned the pop world upside down three decades ago with a string of bubbly hits and timeless power ballads.

She did, of course, but on Detour, she sinks her cowboy boots so far into Nashville soil it’s hard to believe this is the same Cyndi whose polished pop songs continue to abide under the disco glow of the gay clubs. Even so, Cyndi’s personality and charisma is intact, from the yelpy runs on Guy Mitchell’s 1959 No. 1 single “Heartaches by the Numbers” to the husband-and-wife razzing she and Vince Gill partake in on “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly.” Lauper’s version of Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces” is a staggering achievement. Just listen to the way Lauper enters the track, her voice low and husky and, through and through, divine; yes, hand over the Best Female Country Vocal Grammy right now. Skeeter Davis’ 1963 hit “End of the World” also gets a lovely Lauper reading as well. That quiver near the end? Ah, nice touch. Though the singer recently confirmed that she’s working on another Broadway musical, let’s hope she laces up her cowgirl boots and takes another detour as radical and rich as this. Four stars.

HMO050916RIHANNARihanna, ANTI. Rihanna can sing. Soar and dip and drop — she’s no Adele (because who is?) but when the unassuming Barbadian pop princess commits herself, it’s a magical awakening. So if creative differences are the reason behind RiRi’s decision to split with longtime label Def Jam (she’s now with Jay Z’s Roc Nation), going in for the vocal kill, as she does on “Love on the Brain,” is the best kind of record-label retribution. The swaying slowie is refreshingly not-Rihanna, unless you’ve envisioned that Ri’s time offstage is spent belting Etta James’ classics.

That’s what this soul throwback resembles, after all. Her fluttery voice is dramatic and full, and she slays every syllable, channeling her inner vocal goddess. ANTI, the “Umbrella” singer’s surprise drop, then, resists the Rihanna we knew, the one who wasn’t known for the kind of avant-garde, Beyoncé-like wildcard that ANTI is. Let her pointedly remind you that she, too, can dig deep and pour her innermost feelings all over a solo piano, which she does on “Close to You.” Listen as she lashes out at an ex-beau, which she does atop the slinky grind of “Needed Me.” Yes, like 2009’s head-turner Rated R, Rihanna excels when she challenges not just herself but those who expect the superficiality of her baity-and-sometimes-bland singles, from “S&M” (bland) to “We Found Love” (not bland). That’s not to say that now, eight albums in, Rihanna is getting everything right (that grating Drake collaboration, “Work,” is a bust), but her persona-altering diversions are less eager to please and more eager to be everything you thought she couldn’t be. Three stars.

— Chris Azzopardi

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cyndi Lauper shows us her true colors

She’s always been unusual — and we love her for it even more now

It’s not just about having fun anymore.

For Cyndi Lauper, music runs deeper than her ‘80s-era eccentricities may have seemed to suggest. A collection of classics from the Great American Songbook, deep Memphis-based blues, the feel-good Broadway romp Kinky Boots, which won her a Tony in 2013 for best score — Lauper changes musical guises like she changes dye jobs.

The 62-year-old singer takes another sharp turn on Detour, her latest reincarnation, this time as a full-on Southern belle. The spunky pop priestess trades in her pink for plaid and saddles up with a slew of Nashville mainstays, including Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and Emmylou Harris, to sing signature mid-20th-century country ditties.

To talk about her twangy transformation, Lauper called just as she was leaving Los Angeles, where she recently received her much-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Lauper was her usual chatty and chirpy self as she dished on longing to be the “unknown singer,” shoe struggles and forever wanting to take on Joan Crawford and Bette Davis’ infamous revenge relic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? How exactly? By starring in a version of it alongside Madonna, of course.

— Chris Azzopardi


Dallas Voice: I love the irony of you, mega LGBT activist, taking on a genre that’s not historically known to embrace the LGBT community. Cyndi Lauper: There are a lot of LGBT people who love early country music! They love Patsy Cline, they love Loretta Lynn. I loved Loretta Lynn when I was little and when I heard her sing “The Pill” [a cheeky take on birth control] it was like, “Holy cow!”

But I just know that when I went to Nashville everyone was very kind and they were sweet to me, and it feels like a small town and it doesn’t seem like everybody is like that — it just seems like they don’t talk about it a lot. I talk about it because we did a lot of research about the kids running away, the homeless LGBT kids [in 2011, Lauper opened a homeless shelter in NYC for LGBT youth]. We found that if the parents just said, “You’re my kid and I love you and you gotta give me a minute to get my head around this gay thing,” because where the heck are parents gonna go? You can’t go to the preacher man because he’s gonna condemn you and your kid to hell. You’re not gonna go to the school and out your kid. You can’t go to the neighbors. So, where do you go? You have to have an outreach program for the parents and the kids, but you have to have the information to help parents because, you know, I think most parents just love their kids, and when they’re teenagers, you’re gonna fight about everything — I know, I have a teenager. You fight. Hell, that’s the dynamic.

I didn’t think about that; I did this for the love of music. I did this because I saw a segment on CBS’ The Early Show about all the great Nashville session players. One group called the Nashville Cats played with everyone back in the ’60s and ’70s, and I was a little jealous because I felt like I missed out. I saw the Muscle Shoals documentary and I kind of wished sometimes — I felt like I was born in the wrong time. I was so busy being famous that I missed out on all these wonderful things. I just wanted to go back. In the beginning everything is, “You can’t do this! You’ll be ruined!” And you believe it!

At what point in your career did you feel creatively liberated?  I guess in 1991. I wanted to work with Muff Winwood [English songwriter and record producer known for his work with Dire Straits] and he believed in me as an arranger and as a producer. You know, I should’ve moved to England but I didn’t. I loved New York. I was born there and I would’ve missed my family and my friends, so I didn’t go. But it was a lot easier in England; the English people were different. And he wanted me to do this thing for him. It was around that time that I realized, “If you’re gonna be doing this, maybe you should start practicing the rhythm of your own beat and sing your story, not try and do a story with other people’s stories,” which is OK because that’s what singers do, but at that point I wanted to do that and then I wanted to work with [Detour producer] Seymour Stein. I wanted to go and do a blues record. I wanted to do the blues since 2004, and then when I finally got to do it in 2010, you know, I felt blessed because I was able to do something I really wanted to do as a singer. And then I wanted to do this country record, and I hoped that I could sing as best as I could sing. I wanted to do a good job.

You’ve called your new label, Sire Records, your “dream label.” Madonna’s self-titled 1983 debut was released on the same label. Do you think you and Madonna might have done a duet if you’d been on the same label back in the day? Was there ever talk of that happening?  Oh, not by business people. You know, I always felt for me, I would’ve loved to do What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? with her… ’cause I think that’s very funny! [Laughs]

Which part would you play?  Come on! Who do you think I’d play? I’d play Baby Jane — I’d be torturin’ her. Because she’s always viewed as the bad girl, you know! They’d make her the good girl and I’d be the bad one. Or [we could do Joan Crawford’s 1954 western-drama] Johnny Guitar — she’d be the righteous one [laughs]. But whatever. Who knows! For me, all I wanna do is a good job. I wanna be a great singer. I wanna learn. I wanna always learn. I study music constantly. I try and listen to what’s happening. I try and listen to what’s happened, to what I might’ve missed. I think music is… I love it and I think it lifts people up. I think I finally did a record that makes people happy, ya know? Maybe I learned that from Kinky Boots.

Pop, rock, country, blues. Is there anything you can’t sing?  Really, this is the roots of rock, that’s what I sang, you know what I’m sayin’, hun? It’s all the roots. The blues was the roots of what we sing and so is this. There was a time when country and R&B were very linked. The songs would go from R&B to country, country to R&B. A perfect example of that would be the Wilma Burgess hit “Misty Blue,” that was a hit in 1966 and then in 1975 for Dorothy Moore. But they were pop songs.

When I was little, Patsy Cline was on the radio. She was not country radio — she wasn’t segregated to country radio, and neither was Loretta Lynn and neither was Johnny Cash. Those guys were on the pop stations. And we had three AM stations, and everybody was on ’em in New York. You know, some of the stuff, especially “Funnel of Love,” it was a rockabilly song and Wanda Jackson was one of the earlier rockers, and when I was in Blue Angel [Lauper’s pre-solo career rockabilly band], oh, she was prominent on my playlist because she was an early rocker and there weren’t a lot of women rockers that you listened to, but you always listened to her. You listened to the amazing Brenda Lee, but Wanda Jackson was just a little dirtier.

Do you have your cowgirl boots picked out for the tour?
  I’m having trouble with shoes — a lot of trouble. I think some of the shoes I wear are ugly but they don’t hurt. I just don’t want my feet to hurt anymore. You know, I just want a nice pair of wide combat boots and I’d be happy. But I don’t know. I’ll probably find somebody who can actually make me shoes that don’t hurt so I can dance! I don’t want to dance barefoot anymore because I think I beat my feet up that way too.

How about some comfy slippers?  Slippers aren’t strong enough. We do rock. When you slam your foot down, you gotta have some weight to it. You can’t just have a little slipper on.

Why is it important to you to perform in North Carolina despite the state’s new discriminatory “bathroom bill?”  North Carolina is a very important place to go because once people are disenfranchised the way they have been, it’s very important to bring light to a place where people have none and also educate people on what the real concerns are and get people involved in their own destiny.

It’s hard to ask this, but because you were on Celebrity Apprentice I must: What if Donald Trump becomes president?  Ugh. Everybody keeps asking me the same question. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I wouldn’t feel that good about it. I don’t think people should campaign to stop Trump. I think people should vote, for one, and vote for the person they feel is most responsible and can really understand the way the government works right now and make it move forward instead of stopping it every frickin’ two minutes and costing people who pay taxes a lot of money. It’s a little disconcerting — the whole frickin’ thing — and it’s gone on for too long.

You’ve won just about every major award — so, then, what does getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame mean to you?  It’s funny because I had been approached a few times over the years and this time felt right. It was surreal — and to get a star on the same day as my good friend Harvey [Fierstein] felt awesome.

It’s been seven years since Bring Ya to the Brink, your last original non-musical album. Do you write? Are there plans to release original material under your own name?  Well, I’m probably gonna write another Broadway show.

Oh, you are?!  Yes. I think if I wrote [for a solo project] I’d probably write under a pseudonym and sing under a pseudonym because it’d just be a lot easier to have it be received better.

Why do you say that?  Oh, you know, I like good music [laughs]. There’s a really great sound coming out of California — the Southern Bay area has a whole kind of surf, kind of rock sound. Little bit of what we did on “Funnel of Love,” but there’s a whole resurgence and group of people doing that kind of surf bass-y sound but rock.
Why can’t you put your name on it?  I don’t know. Because I don’t want to be judged. I’d rather do new music with a paper bag over my head and be the unknown singer. [Laughs]

But you’ve been in the spotlight for decades. Aren’t you used to critics?  No, I know, but there are things that I can do as Cyndi Lauper and things that I can’t. Just ’cause I can’t doesn’t mean I won’t. I just won’t do it in a conventional way.

You never have, though! That’s why you’re so adored.  Well, thanks. I mean, with this record, I was very fortunate to have some really incredible people on it. I don’t even know — it just happened. It snowballed and the producer, Tony Brown, knew somebody and I knew Emmylou Harris and wanted Emmylou Harris to come and sing. It’s a kind of small town, so I had met with [songwriter / producer] Buddy Cannon who was working with Alison Krauss and Willie Nelson and all of a sudden it started to come together just like that.

I had gone to see Vince Gill and kind of knew him through his wife Amy [Grant] when I did a concert years ago and he had liked a song that I did called “Water’s Edge.” I went to go see him with the Time Jumpers, and when I went to do Detour I felt like if we had him lay down the track with a couple of the Time Jumpers it would really make sense and feel right because they understood real cowboy swing. Tony contacted him and he said he would come in and he did. It just fell together. And if you went to see him with the Time Jumpers, you wouldn’t believe it because he’s really that good. I just thought to myself, “Oh my god, these musicians are great – pinch yourself now because you’re actually really doing this.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 29, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

Harvey Fierstein: The gay interview

As Kinky Boots opens in Dallas, the flamboyant theater diva opines on Johnny Weir, Robin Williams and why we hate ourselves

Harvey Fierstein by Bruce Glikas

“I’m sorry,” Harvey Fierstein growls in his unmistakable Brooklyn gravel, “I gotta go on with my life.” And so, after our insightful 40-minute chat peppered with Fierstein’s true-to-form frankness, he does.

But for Fierstein, a revered Broadway legend known for an iconic writing répertoire that includes Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage aux Folles and, most recently, Kinky Boots, which opens tonight at Fair Park Music Hall courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals, this isn’t just the Tony Award winner’s blunt way of concluding our extensive conversation. It’s a way of life.

Fierstein reflects on the past—  up for the “sissies,” what he calls his “legendary disaster,” and how his own “12 steps of happiness” inspired his latest Broadway smash — but the 62-year-old’s very much living in the present, and for the future.

And look for our one-on-one interview with Fierstein’s Kinky collaborator, Cyndi Lauper, in Friday’s edition, in print and online!

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: I’m certainly not the first person to tell you that Kinky Boots is a massive hit. When you first began writing the musical, did you imagine it would become as successful as it’s been?  Fierstein: You know, you don’t. I’m really old. I’ve been around a really long time, and I’ve had — knock wood — an unbelievable run of hits, and I’ve had some horrible misses and a couple of in-betweens, but you go into all of them with the same heart.

I’ve done a couple for the wrong reasons. I did one to try and make money, which is really a very bad reason, and you make no money doing it that way. I’ve learned that lesson, and I would never do that again. But you basically go in for the right reason because you’re gonna spend years of your life involved with these characters, with these collaborators. And it’s not something you take on lightly if you’ve ever done it because, well, Kinky Boots took almost five years to write.

It’s clearly been a labor of love for you.  They have to be. That’s exactly why they have to be a labor of love, because from sitting down and starting work, which was a year or more before I even called Cyndi [Lauper, who wrote the music and lyrics], to the opening in Korea [last December], we’re now up to seven or eight years. It’s part of your life for the rest of your life.

Jerry Herman and I wrote La Cage 30-something years ago and we are still the parents of that show. We still have to talk about it all the time. So, to say, “Did you know it was gonna be a big hit?” No, you don’t know. You go in with the best hopes and the best intentions of doing something that will entertain, which is our number one job.

What’s a project you did for the wrong reasons?  Legs Diamond. I had a friend who was directing it. Peter Allen had AIDS and his best friend who was writing it for him, who was not a writer but a clothing designer, had AIDS dementia. My friend Robert [Allan Ackerman] called me up and said, “Look, will you come in on this? I know it’s a terrible idea — Peter Allen as Legs Diamond — but all we have to do is get Peter out there, let him shake his ass, sing a couple of numbers, and we can just cash the checks.” And I drank the Kool-Aid.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cyndi Lauper, who’ll be at HOB on Wed., talks ‘Kinky Boots,’ gay rights

Cyndi2Even before this year’s Tonys, the legendary Cyndi Lauper was already considered a champion: A champion of the Grammys. A champion of the pop charts. A champion of gay rights.

But as a teary-eyed Lauper accepted her Tony statuette for composing the music for the smash Kinky Boots (it also was named best musical of the year, and four other Tonys), the coming-of-age sensation about a drag queen and a shoemaker as unlikely business partners, she was recognized for something she had never been before: The girl who just wanted to have fun, with her apple-red hair and heavy Queens accent, is now a champion of Broadway.

Between gigs on her She’s So Unusual Tour, which opens at the House of Blues in Dallas on Wednesday, Lauper gave our Chris Azzopardi a ring recently to chat about her emotional night at the awards ceremony, freaking out rock stars with her “wildly nutty” persona and the reason she’s always stood up for her gay fans. Read the full interview below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gay night in America: The Tony Awards


Billy Porter in Kinky Boots

Sunday was the gayest night of the year — no, not the Ryan Seacrest-Tom Cruise-John Travolta pool party, but the Tony Awards. Doubt me? Here’s the proof:

• Out actor Neil Patrick Harris was the host (for the fourth time). He performed, as we have come to expect, several musical numbers, including one about stage actors moving to TV with fellow gay sitcom star Andrew Rannells (as well as Smash‘s Meg Hilty and Laura Benanti).

• The list of presenters and performers seemed to be culled from a mix of Grindr profiles and diva wish lists. It started with Zachary Quinto, and also included onstage appearances by Rannells, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, David Hyde Pierce, Alan Cumming, Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver, Cyndi Lauper, Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters. (My favorite subtext event? That LuPone presented the second-to-last award for revival of a musical and her longtime rival Peters presented the last award, best musical).

• The winners were just as gay. The major nominees all have some gay content on cross-dressing, from the man-dressed-as-a-woman villain in Matilda to the big winners of the evening, the musical Kinky Boots (about drag queens, including wins for out actor Billy Porter, pictured, choreographer Jerry Mitchell and producer Hal Luftig, which won a leading six awards) and the play The Nance (about a gay burlesque performer, with three). Best play author Christopher Durang, winning his first Tony, thanked his partner of 25 years. Featured actor in a musical winner Gabriel Ebert thanked “Scott,” which sounds pretty gay to me, though who knows? And controversial AIDS Larry Kramer won the Isabella Stevenson Humanitarian Award. (More on the winners after the jump.)

• The musical performances and acceptance speeches? Queer, queer, queer. We got to see numbers from Kinky Boots, Bring It On! (which has a trans character), Cinderella (written by gay scribe Douglas Carter Beane with campy attitude), Pippin (with lots of hot men in tights), Matilda‘s Bertie Carvel and Jane Lynch as Miss Hannigan in Annie. The “in memoriam” tribute was set to Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors,” which of course is the name of her gay outreach program. Even the straight folks thanks lots of gay folks: Featured actor in a play winner Courtney B. Vance gave a shout-out to his director, George C. Wolfe, and featured actress in a play repeat winner Judith Light and actor in play winner Tracy Letts both named their shows’ gay playwrights. (Nearly all of the play winners, in fact, were written by gay men. Go figure.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: ‘Priscilla’ — queens on the verge of a nervous breakdown


The queens of ‘Priscilla’

It is a small perturbation that the two longest-running Broadway musicals about drag queens — La Cage aux Folles and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, now playing at Fair Park Music Hall — involved plots where gay men have ill-advised sex with women and produce sons, only hoping not to embarrass their offspring. My guess is, this is done intentionally, to remind mainstream hetero audiences that gay or straight, we are all basically the same (as if showing our emotions weren’t already enough).

Still, you can practically hear the jaws drop inside the auditorium during many of the numbers of Priscilla, which makes La Cage look like a church social by comparison. Its outrageousness is less offensive and shocking than merely unbridled: It’s out-and-proud about its camp factor, and you’d better adjust or stay away.

Adjust. Do, do adjust, because Priscilla is a hoot, as glamorously trashy and enjoyable as the best drag show you’ve ever seen. Some people didn’t stay through Act 2; that was their loss.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Queer Music News: George Michael video stills, Mould’s new album, Lauper’s LGBT outreach

In marking the 30th anniversary of Wham’s first release “Wham Rap,” George Michael announced a new single to be released this Friday. That’s last week’s news, actually. But starting yesterday, he’s been posting stills from his upcoming video for “White Light.” The above image was released today on his website (and far better than the darker one from yesterday). From

—  Rich Lopez

Twisted, sister: Dee Snider tackles Broadway

If Pat Boone can try heavy metal, I suppose nothing can surprise us. And honestly, the idea that Dee Snider, the hawk-nosed, bleached-perm frontman for annoying ’80s rockers Twisted Sister, has always had an eye for the flamboyant — why shouldn’t he give a rock twist to that most diva-like of genres, the Broadway show tune? So, I was only mildly stunned when I saw he will be releasing an album in May, Dee Does Broadway, featuring covers from the likes of Kander & Ebb and Sondheim.

But two things did catch me off guard. First was that he was able to snag some of the premiere gay icons of the day to perform alongside him, including Patti LuPone, Cyndi Lauper, Bebe Neuwirth and Clay Aiken. The second is that, ummm, he’s pretty good! Untraditional, but good! You can take a listen here. What do you think?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Starvoice • 02.04.11

By Jack Fertig


Judith Light turns 62 on Wednesday. We couldn’t get enough of her as Claire Meade in Ugly Betty, but really, how can we not cherish Light’s extensive work as a gay rights and AIDS activist? The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center named their library after her. Last spring, she joined Cyndi Lauper’s Give a Damn campaign joining the likes of Elton, Whoopi and Anna Paquin.



Sun and Mars are in a long dance together through Aquarius. Dissonance from Venus and Pluto, both in Capricorn, can turn that into a war dance. It’s too easy to build up resentments over nothing. Strive for clarity and self-awareness. If you feel wronged, own your part of it and move on.


AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Some bee in your bonnet has you agitated and touchy. What’s at the bottom of this? Who are you really angry at? Yourself? Talk with someone who knows your BS better than to fall for it.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
One of your friends is out to double-cross you. Keep your radar up. Standing with one foot in the future and one in the past blinds you to the present. Focus on what matters at the moment.
ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Consider social demands before agreeing to any. Focus on challenges at work. Reexamine your goals and your strategies. Are they realistic? Even the best plans need an occasional tweak.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
You prefer safer paths, but are now easily goaded to big gambles. Some risk-taking is good and necessary; exercise foresight, good sense and moderation. If it looks good, go for it.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
New sexual adventures take you to places you’d never dreamed of. Be careful. Bragging about your new erotic adventures is also fine, but be careful about “the time and place for everything.”

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
You and your partner need some spice in your love life. Take turns granting each other’s desires. You’ll be surprised. Be careful where to discuss. If it gets out that could also be a surprise.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Your efforts on teamwork are admirable, but remember that teamwork is not necessarily what you say it is. Work at taking orders and suggestions, then show how you can carry those out.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Sports injuries and accidents are out to get you. Whatever you do to relax, stay focused on developing technique and keep your eyes open to usual risks. But you’ll look sexy in a cast.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Fun and games at home start more fights than they prevent. The best application for rough competitive energy could be wrestling to see who gets on top.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Family fights break out too easily. Discussing those problems with a friend is more helpful than putting it in the face of your folks. Work helps relieve tension gets you some perspective.

In your heart, you know compulsive spending is counterproductive. Sit down and analyze your finances. Learning a new game or creative outlet is helpful, if it doesn’t get expensive.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Trying a new look either gets expensive or challenges your resourcefulness. Go for something radical and dramatic, even if it’s just for those special occasions.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

SHOW vs. SHOW: Girl Talk and Girl in a Coma

Chick on chick action is fine, but when these indie bands face off, everybody wins

RICH LOPEZ  |  Staff Writer

Who doesn’t like a good girlfight? No, not those videos where pregnant women street punch each other in a Burger King parking lot. In this installment of Show Vs. Show, we take it to a different level. Girl Talk turns music on its ear with astonishing mashups while San Antonio’s Girl in a Coma fuses indie rock with some Latin flair. Both come to town this weekend, but they’re duking it out here first.

The mashup can be a wonderful thing, especially when mastered by Greg Gillis, aka Girl Talk. By taking the heart of one song and the soul of another, he creates astonishing new works. In his latest album, All Day, Cyndi Lauper, the Isley Brothers, Radiohead and Basement Jaxx are some of the few that get his mashup treatment — and the results are magic.

Girl in a Coma might come off as the little band that could, and they are doing it. With surprising career moves and a tenacious touring schedule, the Texas trio knows how to keep everyone’s attention. Last year’s release, Adventures in Coverland, was a surprising album made of covers — risky for a third album from a band without a huge hit under their name. But the album works so well, who cared? With nods to their Hispanic heritage and punk roots, GIAC took on Bowie, Velvet Underground and Selena and created alt-rock gems.

So which girl is gonna rock out the knockout? We have our guesses. What’s yours?


—  John Wright