The cover of the April 9 issue of the tabloid Star laments the fate of Khloe Kardashian and Dallas Maverick Lamar Odom, so a couple of “locals” made it to the front cover, but skip that and flip to a few pages in to the worst of the week section.
The eagerly awaited new single from Madonna’s new album M.D.N.A. is now official. She teased us with the album art a few days ago and now her first single and video. She dropped her single “Give Me All Your Luvin’” today. A smart move as usual to tease her halftime performed at Sunday’s Super Bowl, especially since she centered the video around cheerleader back up dancers and very assisting football players along with M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj along for the ride. She’s looking good with a sort of brushed out Adele-ish do. The song is both cute and cool thanks to its beat. She seems to be vying for her more pop-friendly days of True Blue and Like a Virgin than her more exploratory, complex stuff like Ray of Light and Confessions on a Dancefloor, so she may be coming full circle to her early days. Either way, she’ll likely score with “Luvin.’”
But enough about my thoughts on it. Here’s your new Madonna.
You could say 2011 was the year of the superstar. Already-superstars Gaga, Beyonce and Britney dropped new albums confirming their status, while Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry became ones following the continued successes of 2010 discs. Kanye and Jay-Z teamed up to watch the throne and beardos Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver followed up their debuts with dreamy, though sometimes confusing releases.
Ultimately, it was Adele who ruled, leaving all others in the dust with an exercise in modern torch songs and declarative hits — so much so, she and 2011 are now practically synonymous.
But not exclusively. A few others made an impression on smaller fronts — and big ones, too. Each of the following resonated either through a chill groove or a strong beat, and ultimately made 2011 easy on the ears.
1. Washed Out, Within and Without — What Ernest Greene does with this chillwave release is somewhere between a dream and astral projection. Each track floats in your ears as wonderful bubbles of music that are airy and delicate, but their impression is far more lasting. This isn’t just an album, but a luxury bath for the ears and soul, which made for practically infinite repeat plays. Key tracks: “Amor Fati,” “Eyes Be Closed.”
2. Caveman, CoCo Beware — In just two years, these Brooklyn indie rockers debuted their album with confidence to spare. Giving alt-rock sensibilities to Simon and Garfunkel folkisms, Caveman fits in the Grizzly Bear–Band of Horses vein and yet they still create a sound that will grow into their own. Those drums are to die for as is singer Matthew Iwanusa smooth tenor. Caveman’s release is more like a gift. Key tracks: “Decide,” “December 28th.”
3. Death Cab for Cutie, Keys and Codes Remix EP — By nature, most remixes are agony resulting in a soulless version of the original. That didn’t happen here in DCFC’s redux on their already- impressive Codes and Keys from earlier in the year. At times, the EP is even better than the original, with charged up versions of seven songs. Yeasayer, The 2 Bears and Cut Copy are among the remixers who don’t take away from DCFC’s spirit, but spike it huge with major beats. Key tracks: “Underneath the Sycamore,” “Some Boys.”
4. Adele, 21 — This is very likely the album of the year for the entire world — and deservedly so. Adele channeled all the emotion of being done wrong by her man into a solid display of music. At times, she gets a little too sappy, but the strength of 21 isn’t just in Adele’s soulful voice, it’s also in her heart that is both pained and strengthened here. Plus, 21 pretty much just says “fuck you” to the ex the way we all wish we could. Key tracks: “Rolling in the Deep,” “Don’t You Remember.”
5. Adam Tyler, Shattered Ice — In his debut, Tyler broke through pop/dance music apathy to create a refreshing album of solid tunes. He recalls glorious pop of two and three decades ago but updates it with sexy lyrics and dynamic hooks. Tyler wrote all 11 songs and more than half of those are ready for the radio. Hopefully, someone will take notice, because Ice is too spectacular to be overlooked. Key tracks: “Pull the Trigger,” “I Won’t Let You Go.”
6. Real Estate, Days — Less is more with this complete package by the indie folk rockers from New Jersey. They smoothed out from their 2009 debut and bring a minimalist, but hardly simple approach to Days that shows off the band’s talents modestly, but considerably effectively with lush cascades of music. Days is a facile listen that may sound like background music, but you won’t forget it. Key tracks: “It’s Real,” “Younger than Yesterday.”
7. Beyonce, 4 — The diva missed out on big radio hits with this album, but she channeled her inner ‘80s-and-‘90s adult contemporaries and created a helluva fascinating album. Sidestepping the obvious, B dabbled in sophistication over aggression and came up with retro vibes without losing her style. She totally didn’t give up her skills trying for a big hit with “Rule the World (Girls)” but missed. That’s forgivable considering the brilliance of the rest. Key tracks: “Rather Die Young,” “I Care.”
8. CSS, La Liberacion — These Brazilian party rockers matured beautifully in their third album. For having a reputation of delivering queer-centric dance rock, earlier releases were a tad unfocused. CSS kept the same amped-up energy, but their songwriting and musicianship has grown into smart and sublime. From irreverence to slightly political, CSS looks like they have finally found their place. Key tracks: “City Grrrl,” “I Love You.”
9. Me’Shell Ndegéocello, Weather — Ndegéocello continues to bring the cool, and does so with the ultra-slick Weather. Her neo-soul chops have not been lost over the course of her almost two-decade career. Instead, she adds a layer of maturity with each new album and this year practically cultivated it into hip, soulful perfection. And that bass playing is so sexy, it’s borderline (but gloriously) obscene. Key tracks: “Chance,” “Dirty World.”
10. Emmeline, Someone to Be — Coming in under the wire, Dallas singer Emmeline recently dropped off her disc personally to the Dallas Voice asking for a listen. Good thing she did, as she lies somewhere between Sarah MacLachlan and Regina Spektor. With earnest keyboards and charming vocals, she churned out one of the more delightful packages of tunes with a sugary edge that sticks just right and is wonderfully addictive. Key tracks: “Someone to Be,” “Dallas.”
2011’s top LGBT releases
Queer music was in full bloom over the last 12 months, with a wide range of LGBT artists — from veterans to newbies — strongly delivering great music. Here are some of the highlights that stuck out for us. R.E.M, Collapse Into Now. Soon after this March release, the band announced they were breaking up after 30 years — with the appropriate greatest hits release in November. Deborah Vial, Stages and Stones. The former Dallas gal showed off her chops from Hawaii in her soulful new album.
K.D. Lang and the Siss Boom Bang, Sing it Loud. Lang crooned, but also rocked gently with her new band.
Ariel Aparicio, Aerials. OutMusic Award winner Aparicio hit a strong note with his alt-rock album from August, fusing it with Latin flair.
Garrin Benfield, The Wave Organ Song. This scruffy folk-country artist relaxed into his fifth disc with a languid and poetic song cycle.
Girl in a Coma, Exits and All the Rest (pictured). The San Antonio rock trio made waves in 2011, landing on several year-end lists.
Brandon Hilton, Nocturnal. Hilton worked the web to his advantage to get his album on people’s radar and it worked both ways.
The Sounds, Something to Die For. The relentless alt-pop from these Swedes was one of the best music addictions of the year. And bi singer Maja Ivarsson sold it perfectly.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.
The ladies ran the world this year — or at least the concert stage, whether dives or arenas.
1. Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae (Verizon Theatre). These two crashed the venue with the year’s most amazing live performances. Monae, in all her spastic glory, ran across the stage and into the audience, proving why she is the next Prince. And with her futuristic-themed album Archandroid, her band was loud and live minus any apparent electronic help. Mars did the same but recalled old-school showmanship, channeling Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Smokey Robinson as he and his own band filled the place with raucous horns, slamming percussion and Mars’ charisma.
2. Nicki Minaj (American Airlines, pictured). Britney sputtered before her concert hit its stride halfway through, but Minaj brought it from the get-go. With military precision, she and her troupe marched and danced while the audience roared, spanking the American Airlines Center as if she were the headliner, making everyone in the crowd her bitch. And all were on board. Her ovation with Spears was proof that Minaj’s star has arrived.
3. Jackie Hall (Lakewood Bar & Grill). A surprise at the May edition of Twist LGBT, stepped in with local band One Night Stand to end the night with a bang. Even as the crowd dwindled, Hall went full bore, working up those left into a frenzy with powerful covers. This lady sings the blues and rock and pop, but turns them out like no other.
4. Scissor Sisters (American Airlines Center). There is no way to steal a show from Lady Gaga, but the Sisters didn’t need to, giving a workout of a show. Ridiculously pumped Jake Shears burned a million calories with his high-energy antics (and that ass-reveal, a great bonus). Ana Matronic held her own as Shears’ equal with funk and sass. True fans were breathless.
5. Brandi Carlile (Granada Theatre). Without much fanfare, Carlile and her legions of fans in the mid-sized Granada were like one entity fused together. Her fans gave her space to sing softly, to go unplugged and to simply love her. She gave it right back with both grit and tenderness that were triggering all the ladies’ pheromones.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.
I came to an epiphany on Tuesday night at Britney Spears’ Femme Fatale show at the AAC. She may not be the most artistic or profound artist out there, but she does serve a purpose. Much in the same way Transformers movies serve a purpose at the theater. You can’t expect a deeper meaning behind them. Spears’ music isn’t trying to change the world; it’s pop music that has fun and flirts and dances its way through the ears and body. If anything, and without knowing it, Spears might actually encourage people to live in the moment.
The cohesion of her show may have been applied with a Band-Aid as her costume and set changes were the femme fatale in various disguises, but her and her cadre of dancers churned out the energy like DJs at a gay bar in full swing. Nary a break was to be found in the high energy set list that thumped its way into the adulating fans as they roared with each song. The true fans knew all the words to even her non-hits from Fatale, while the rest fanatically pumped their fists and danced to the beat.
Each costume and set was threaded with a film narrative of a man tracking the “sexy assassin” down but to try to tell a story here didn’t add much to any theme or tone.
Gone are the strong line dances as she’s reduced her moves to patty-cake hand movements, cheap stripper-esque poses and a whole lot of hair whipping, but instead, this is who Britney Spears is and even if it lacked a certain panache, it still reduced fans to tears and screams. Unfortunately, lip-synching rumors were evident as her vocal tracks were crystal clear from the beginning with “Hold It Against Me” to almost the end. I could say I heard a breathier, realistic tone to her singing in the encore “Toxic” and it wasn’t bad.
If you don’t get pop overload by the end of tomorrow evening, than you are a superstar. Although Gaga may already claim the top concert event of the year for most people, Britney Spears is likely a close second. Well, we are thinking gay boy audiences of course. But with the added support of Jessie and the Toy Boys and Nicki Minaj, well, that’s just above and beyond. DJ duo Nervo gets the night going which is icing on the cake.
DEETS: Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Jessie & the Toy Boys, Nervo. American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave. 7 p.m. $29–$350. Ticketmaster.com.