Year in Review: Music 2015

BESTAdeleScreen shot 2016-01-12 at 4.57.23 PMOur final end-of-year wrap up in entertainment has arrived! Our music guru, Chris Azzopardi, ranks the top 10 discs of 2015.

10. Madonna, Rebel Heart. In 2015, it was strange hearing Madonna sound so… human. A cluster of cuts from the queen’s 13th studio album imparted a rare authenticity and striking vulnerability typically not ascribed to music’s self-proclaimed Unapologetic Bitch. Madonna caring about people’s opinions of Madonna — and confessing those feelings? Yup. At least on “Joan of Arc.” Madonna lifting you up, hugging your heart and making this “mad, mad world” just a little easier to cope with? Yes, that too: “Ghosttown” — also the heyday throwback “Living for Love” — reveals, for the first time in years, a deeper, more poignant pop queen.

9. Miguel, Wild HeartLook beyond Miguel’s piercing peepers, winning smirk and that perfectly coiffed just-after-5 o’clock shadow — just try real hard, you can do it — and what you’ll find is a real music man. That’s right: His underheard Wild Heart is as dreamy as he is, all SoCal Prince vibes and hypersexual playfulness (put a condom on when you listen to “the valley”), but also genuinely affecting. Highlights are the introspective, identity-questioning “what’s normal anyway” and “leaves,” an amping guitar-riffed wonder that hurts as much as it heals.

8. Brandi Carlile, The Firewatcher’s Daughter“I miss the days when I was just a kid,” Brandi Carlile sings, sweetly, longingly. Now 34, and out and married and mothering, Carlile was self-reflective on her rustic release Firewatcher’s Daughter, living for tomorrow but remembering today and yesterday. On arguably the album’s most impassioned ditty, “Wherever Is Your Heart,” the Seattle-born singer-songwriter relishes being “born to roam,” which is precisely what this, her first major-label-less release, does. The journey pauses in the past but lives, powerfully, in the present.

BESTChvrches7. Adele, 25. “Hello.” One short, simple word, but it was enough. A gift. A gif. That brief salutation brought Adele back into our lives as if she’d been gone for a lifetime. In pop years, it sure seemed that way, and the meme-worthy lyrics of her first single served as a “Hi, I’m back, bitches” moment and also a searing reminder of the heartbreak the record-breaking belter can inflict when she powers through a sad song. Like “All I Ask,” a gutting assertion to an imminent ex. Like “When We Were Young,” a reminder that your youth is dead, gone, bye forever. So good, though. Yes: Hello from the other side of not-great album sales, Auto Tune and general imperfection.

6. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly. Kendrick Lamar changed hip-hop last year. Turned it up, down, sideways. And he even had time to team with Taylor Swift for “Bad Blood,” scoring him his first No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Not that he needed Swift — Lamar’s second major-label album, To Pimp a Butterfly, speaks for itself. And it speaks boldly, declaring painful truths about race and his own personal demons with rage-filled cinematic flair and simmering jazz flavor.

5. Susanne Sundfør, Ten Love SongsIt isn’t just the ominous lure of mad love on the deliciously fuming “Delirious” — “I hope you have a safety net, because I’m going to push you over the edge” — that lands Susanne Sundfør a spot on the list. It’s certainly enough, though. She ravages every word of that song with a shark’s bite, and it’s a magical moment among many (give “Darlings” all the vocal awards) nestled within the front-to-back brilliance of 10 love songs that are equal parts euphoric, enchanting and enraged.

4. CHVRCHES, Every Open EyeI remember hearing CHVRCHES for the first time at a festival even before obsessing over their then-unreleased debut, _The Bones of What You Believe_. The music was alive, bursting with retro shimmer and sowing the same kind of emotional catharsis of, say, Robyn. I was hooked. The disc did not disappoint, nor did its follow-up, the also-marvelous Every Open Eye. CHVRCHES’ sound is still deeply rooted in the wondrous midnight-hour wheelhouse they shaped on Bones, and, once again, to staggering effect. A slump-less sophomore album as divine as their name.

BESTSufjan3. Patty Griffin, Servant of LoveWhat does the world need? Peace… and Patty Griffin’s voice. The former is especially apparent to anyone who, you know, is living right now, but: Have you heard Griffin’s most recent Grammy-nominated release? The alt-folk phenom sings like angels must; “Rider of Days” sounds like thousands of winged beauties, soaring to the afterlife, dancing through the clouds. It’s a sweet reverie, and one of the most gorgeous pieces of music this universe has ever heard. But also, it’s a rare sliver of light on yet another one of Griffin’s masterworks, a brooding, beautiful catharsis of a world on fire.

2. Carly Rae Jepsen, E•MO•TIONPeople, what gives? One of 2015’s greatest unsolved mysteries, Carly Rae Jepsen’s absurdly looked-over E•MO•TION didn’t find its commercial sweet spot. And fine. Their loss. Our gain: the charming Sia-written jam “Making the Most of the Night,” a punchy piece of pick-me-up pop; “Warm Blood,” a cuddly come-down; and “When I Needed You,” which sounds like her winning audition to be the fifth member of The Go-Go’s. And on and on and on. Yes, Carly: I really really really like this.

1. Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell. On Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens’ quiet descent into the dark corners of grief and despair after the loss of his mother, the sexually ambiguous singer-songwriter says so much with so little. Leaning on minimalist atmospherics, his open-book outing sounds as if it were recorded in the late hours of the night in the quiet of his bedroom, just Sufjan’s guitar and his lonely stream-of-conscious. It’s powerful and potent. And it’s death, and it’s life. The weirdly comforting truth that “we’re all gonna die” on the lullaby-like “Fourth of July” — a final exchange with his passing mother – is a stinging reality, and “Blue Bucket of Gold” feels like a dream.

— Chris Azzopardi

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Same Love’s’ Mary Lambert: The gay interview

MaryLambert1Editor’s note: Still high off her Grammy nomination, queer music icon Mary Lambert sat down with our Chris Azzopardi to discuss the group wedding, her new EP and what it’s like having Madonna dry your tears.

“I’m not crying on Sundays,” Mary Lambert assures herself on the song that got her to the Grammys. But Sunday, Jan. 26,  was different. That Sunday was better.

Singing the heart-lifting chorus to Macklemore’s “Same Love,” which was nominated for best song, Lambert made her Grammy debut.

That’s when she lost it. But these weren’t tears of sadness or shame. These were tears of joy. Tears of being inspired and moved and all those things you feel when you share the stage with gay couples who are finally able to get married, a monumental celebration that took place at the awards show, with Queen Latifah officiating.

Emotions ran high that night, but Lambert, 24, had a new friend nearby — a new friend by the name of Madonna. And the icon didn’t just sing Lambert’s words, but, like something out of a fever dream, swooped in and wiped away her tears.

Lambert, who recently released her own solo EP called Welcome to the Age of My Body, was still emotional when she spoke about that unforgettable night.

Dallas Voice: You must be pinching yourself. What was your Grammy experience like?  Lambert: It was really emotional from start to finish. I already feel like Cinderella because I was bartending last year and didn’t know how I was gonna pay rent. Now I’ve been nominated for a Grammy — and I took my mom, which was a dream of mine — but then to be able to do this song, and to do it on this magnitude with this beautiful choir and fucking Madonna and Queen Latifah, are you kidding me? It’s just stupid, dude. If I really think about it, I lose it.

You cry?  Yeah, like, “I don’t deserve this.” I’m still working on my positive self-talk.

What was it like being part of the wedding ceremony?  Honestly, that was the most emotional part. Being in rehearsal and hearing Madonna sing my words and hearing the choir come in, that was emotional, but being in the dress rehearsal at the Grammys and watching the couples come in, I couldn’t get through the song for almost every rehearsal. I wasn’t sure how I was gonna perform because it was so beautiful. You saw on their faces how much it meant to them, and I knew how much it would mean to the viewer. How do you process that? It’s the most beautiful thing that exists in the world.

What were rehearsals with Madonna like?  We had long rehearsals. I wouldn’t say we’re close, but we got to know each other’s mannerisms and how we operate. I consider her a friend. She was very kind to me, and because we had to work together, I had to be like, “Hey, this is how I sing the song.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Grammys’ fashion hits and misses

macklemore-ryan-lewis-grammys-win-best-new-artist-600x450

Ryan Lewis and Macklemore redefine men’s fashions at the Grammys.

The Grammys are always interesting because the event is wilder than some of the more serious award shows of the season. Of course, anything gets more interesting when you throw rock/pop stars in the mix. Our fashion guy J. Denton Bricker picked the winners and losers in the important red carpet derby.

Denton’s Best Dressed List

Kelly Rowland looked banging in a black gown by George Chakra with phenomenal cutouts that show off her rock-hard bod. If you’ve got it, flaunt it, bitches! … and she does it well. Not bad for a second-lead vocalist, right?

KatyPerry

Katy Perry

Paris Hilton wore a shimmering white gown with a sleek cutout back by House of Milan. She also has amazing hair and makeup, and that’s hot!

Katy Perry wore an unforgettable and appropriate white gown covered in notes by Valentino. With 11 Grammy nominations, she is not only a winner in the fashion world last night. Her hair was impeccable is an extensive updo, and she is showing just the right amount of skin, which is sometimes hard to do considering the Elmo incident on Sesame Street.

Rita Ora looked like a golden goddess in long sleeved, knee length dress by Lanvin with the slightest hint of green. Her manicure is as wild and fun as the massive rings on her fingers.

Pink never looked so good in a two-toned red gown by Johan Johansson. She said it made her feel like a princess, and she looked like one.

Rihanna seemed super-fierce in a red gown with sheer chiffon panels by Azzedine Alaia. Absolutely fabulous, and her long loose curls are gorge. This was one of my favorites.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis gave new life to men’s fashion in a dark teal tux and an oversized houndstooth print suit, respectively. I absolutely love houndstooth, and it read amazeballs in the oversized print with silver instead of white. Plus I think it is amazingly huge that their album won four Grammys without a major record label. “Same Love” is a song truly about equal rights for all, and the fact that it is being applauded is even better.

Taylor Swift’s completely statuesque appearance in silver Gucci rocked. The gown features full-length diamond chainmail that could stop a bullet. Her ponytail was glamorous, and she has been bringing it this award season.

Denton’s Worst Dressed List

Madonna

Madonna, Madonna, Madonnna looked awkward channeling a little pimp, a little supreme from American Horror Story: Coven, but not in a good way. Her grill of gold seemed a little ridic. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great, either. I forgave her when she changed into the all white number during the show later.

Paula Patton wore a wacky zebra, lion hybrid of a dress. Just no, Paula — you have to be careful with zebra stripes, and this just didn’t work.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Audé-tious: Grammy-nominated remixer Dave Audé headlines Boi Thursday

AUD_PIC_WKND_10.12Proof that music knows no boundary comes this week when straight DJ/remixer Dave Audé headlines the very gay night Boi Thursday at Winston’s Supperclub. But then again, without the gays, DJs probably wouldn’t have a job.

So how will the Grammy-nominated, in-demand A-list DJ prepare for his soon-to-be Dallas gay fans? Rich Lopez chatted with Audé from his home in Los Angeles:

“I don’t think about what I’m gonna bring too much — the night before I’ll think about some of it,” says Audé. “I could play Dave Audé stuff all night even but I’m not gonna do one type of thing. I’ll just play everything.”

But if he does play his own work, that would hardly be a disappointment. His catalog includes remixes of Rihanna, Madonna and Adam Lambert to name a few —  all gay faves. And his current projects are just as impressive and will likely be dotting gay dance floors for months to come.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Of Madonna and Big Tex

Oct. 19, 2012, may we be considered Dallas’ Black Friday — or at least, Blackened Friday.

The day began with the surprising news that Big Tex, the animatronic corporate logo for the State Fair of Texas (the Fair’s website is even BigTex.org), caught fire and burned up faster than a joint in Snoop Dogg’s trailer. Pictures of the flamer (I knew it!) became the latest meme to dominate Facebook; news sourced from as far away as the BBC reported on it.

Then, less than 12 hours later, came more devastating news: Madonna was canceling the first of her two concerts at American Airlines Center. I was at an event with tons of gay folks, and the news spread faster … well, faster than flames over Big Tex.

How much can one community be expected to endure?!?!

The thing is, neither of these event is, really, such a big deal. Oohhhh, Madonna has laryngitis; it happens. She still performed last night (and, by all accounts, was fully recovered) and so many of her fans still got what they wanted. And Big Tex? Well, the fair was almost over anyway, and while the majority of the skeleton may have been around for 60 years, it was, in the end, a badly dressed scaffolding with a loudspeaker in his chest. It was not, in the end, a tragedy of any sort.

So why were people acting as if both of them were?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Gay Interview: Katy Perry

Our correspondent Chris Azzopardi got a sit-down (well, via transatlantic phone) with pop star Katy Perry, just in time for the release of her concert documentary, Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D, which comes out today.  The patriotic pop princess talks the film, kissing gay boys and fighting hate with love bullets.

 KATY PERRY IN 3D

It was not really last Friday night, but it still happened: Katy Perry called from London, where it was nearly 1 a.m. If life really does imitate art, she smelled like a mini-bar on a night that’s soon to be a blacked-out blur, right?

“Not tonight,” she insists. “I have to play and be professional tomorrow, but maybe after the show I’ll be having a couple of Shirley Temples with some adult juice in them.”

We spoke with Perry just after she made a surprise appearance in London for a screening of her new film, Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D, a docu-concert chronicling the California girl’s evolution from gospel-singing daughter of two pastors to international pop phenom … with the most lethal boobs in the world.

During our interview, Perry told us what else they shoot besides whipped cream, how the gay community can relate to her movie and why Madonna doesn’t scare her. 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Madonna’s “Girl Gone Wild”

Madonna makes a much more mature showing in this video more so than in “Give Me All Your Luvin’” from January. The buzz is all about its black and white atmosphere and her return to form. She succeeds in stepping up her presence with subtle nods to the Madonna of the Erotica/Bedtime Stories era, but still very fashion forward. This is leaps and bounds beyond the album’s first video, but where Madonna should be at this point.

The video premiered tonight on E! Online. M.D.N.A. is set for release March. 26.

—  Rich Lopez

Interim no more: Jacobs in at TCC

It’s official: Trey Jacobs is in as the new, permanent artistic director at the Turtle Creek Chorale.

Following the TCC’s Madonna to Madonna concert Sunday, where Dallas’ gay men’s chorus sang songs from liturgical hymns like “Ave Maria” to medleys of Madge’s pop hits, managing director David Fisher, pictured right, announced that their “new” artistic director would be the guy who has led the group since last summer, pictured left.

It was both a surprise and not. The surprise came because, in an interview with the Voice last October, Jacobs claimed he did not intend to apply for it, as he had recently moved to the same town as his partner after a commuter relationship for years.

I was never totally convinced, even though Jacobs was a rush replacement last year when former A.D. Jonathan Palant’s contract was not renewed at the close of the season. And it was not a surprise when you looked at the Facebook posts in recent days of TCC members, who seemed devoted to Jacobs’ leadership. When Fisher took the stage, I saw it coming.

The reaction from the crowd was enthusiastic, probably owing in no small part to the excellent concert that has just been performed. There was an energy to the chorale that had been missing in some prior concerts, and the membership roster seemed especially healthy. (The subject matter — the role of women and their strength throughout history — was particularly poignant in light of recent political debates concerning women’s health.) Jacobs’ selection was a popular choice and the singers, too. One member of the search committee told me after they looked at 16 candidates, but “we all love Trey,” so he was offered the job.

Another clue it would be Jacobs: A note in the program that the 2012-13 season would be announced soon. That’s the job of an artistic director.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Like virgins

Turtle Creek Chorale channels its inner Madonna — and other women throughout history — for its latest concert

Madonna9-CUT-OUT

STRIKE A POSE | The chorale gets into the groove Sunday performing Madonna songs, but the concert honors many women throughout history.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Trey Jacobs knew exactly who he had in mind when forging the concept of the upcoming Turtle Creek Chorale concert Madonna to Madonna: The Ageless Strength of Women. The show was conceived to feature music that honors women from the Virgin Mary to the queen of pop. Iconic as they are, Jacobs looked to high school for the women who made him the person he is today — besides Mom, of course.

“As a musician, my role model was my high school choral director Jane Price,” says the TCC’s interim conductor. “She taught me how to express emotion through music.”

Thus, Jacobs will take a cue from Madge and express himself with a selection of Madonna songs — and then some.

Jacobs took over the chorale after the season outline had already been set. Running the gamut of women throughout history, from antiquity to the contemporary, was not his idea. But he expanded the idea to make his own mark.

“There was no music selected yet,” he says. “For me, it was about trying to pair [the idea] with a concept that would resonate with people. And it became this show that truly honors women.”

With a set-list that goes from Rachmaninoff to Shania Twain, the chorale teams up with some special guests for a unique experience. Enlisting the help of local singers Patty Breckenridge and Sally Vahle, New York musician Nisha Asnani and Cathedral of Hope’s the Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson, the ladies add the appropriate feminine touch to the show.

While people are scrambling to get loan approval for Madonna tickets in October, there is a distinct curiosity for how the TCC boys will be pulling off some of her greatest hits. There will even be some “chorale-ography” involved.

“They’ll be singing ‘Open Your Heart,’ ‘Dress You Up,’ ‘Papa Don’t Preach,’” says Joe Rattan, who also does the chorale’s marketing. “Oh, and ‘Vogue.’”

Rattan and Jacobs confirm that the TCC men will, in fact, be vogueing.

Clearly Madonna is a big draw for any gay event, but both men are sure to note that the inspiration of this show isn’t just about the material girl or even just about the Virgin Mary.

“The show runs the full emotional gamut,” Rattan says. “It’s very touching, there are some funny moments. Trey really breathed life into it to be this and has done a wonderful job. The guys are excited and inspired by what they are singing and I’ve been moved by what I heard.”

Jacobs assures that a concert about women by men won’t miss the point.

“I had talks with the chorale and many of them would talk about these female role models,” he says. “Sometimes it was a strong character from a movie or musical, or more personal, but it was fascinating to hear all these different men talk about women in such reverence. That’s what this is about.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 2, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Madonna adds 2nd Dallas show, drops new single

Madonna offers fans here a double dose of good news. First, as you may have heard, she’s released her second single of her upcoming album. She dropped “Girl Gone Wild” today much to the likely pleasure of pop music bloggers everywhere. I can’t say I’m knocked out by it compared to her first single, but I’ve had some deadlines today that have kept my focus elsewhere. As we do. I kinda miss the sophisticated edge she had for Ray of Light or Music. I fear she’s trading her hot cougar-ness for some reductive pop confections.

No video yet, but you can give the song a listen on this lyric video.

To add to a good day of Madonna, we found out a second show has been added to her Dallas date at the American Airlines Center. She’s added Oct. 21 to her itinerary with tickets going on sale March 5. So save up your $358.50 for some primo seats at AAC.

—  Rich Lopez