Hunx and His Punx recall happy days; Jessie J makes forgettable debut
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
If Grease ever needs to be rewritten with gay overtones, Seth Bogart is the man to do it. As Hunx in Hunx and His Punx, he and his backing trio of chicks throwback to the greaser ’50s with a solid and very gay effort in the band’s full-length debut, Too Young to Be in Love.
Bogart doesn’t hold back the gay on these 10 songs. He refreshingly and gloriously talks and sings to the male objects of his affection. In opening track “Lovers Lane,” he regrets a final moment and Wished I would have kissed him one last time. Although the first track has a tragic undertone, H&HP get giddy quickly on “He’s Coming Back.” Bogart sings He’s a real big guy so you better watch your back and he actually conveys the same feeling that any of the girl groups back then would have done. The band doesn’t force these lyrics to prove how gay they are. With innocent charm and a low-fi approach, the songs roll out with natural ease. Man-on-man music action probably wouldn’t distract straight listeners because it comes out in perfect flow.
At times, Bogart and his nasally voice gets a little much. He’s not really a great vocalist, but the band uses a right amount of balance between his singing and the background vocals. Save for Bogart, the band is all female — or rather, Punkettes — and they create ideal harmonies while playing their instruments. They also save the album from nasal overkill.
With all the joy Too Young brings, there is a darker moment here. The final track, “Blow Me Away,” strays from the love-and-heartbreak theme even if it doesn’t sound like it. The song recounts his father’s suicide and looking past the sonic gimmick, it’s a devastating heartbreaker.
Although the album clocks at only 31 minutes, it does get a little repetitious. Despite purposefully recalling a vintage sound, by the halfway point (“If You’re Not Here”) it’s just enough.
The charm is still there, but they never employ any modern feel to the retro and it starts to work against the album. The songs begin running into each other. I wonder if they had discovered a formula and stuck with it, slowing it down or speeding it up as needed.
With Bogart’s devotion to the innocent perspective in the lyrics, you start to miss some of the raunchier stuff from the band’s 2010 compilation, Gay Singles. It could have been fun had he added some of that lyrical edge to this music.
Its length also saves Too Young — as if they knew when it was going to wear thin. Any longer would have been a drag. But Hunx and His Punx pull off a sweet, little album that pays genuine homage to a forgotten sound while giving gay boys out there songs to sock hop to with their boyfriends.
We’ve been hearing Brit Jessie J even before her first single “Do It Like a Dude” came out. Starting as a songwriter for hitmakers Chris Brown and Miley Cyrus, she scored her biggest hit with Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” Now she makes her stateside debut with the album Who You Are.
The pop tidbit “Dude” made an impression here with energetic beats and her most assaultive lyrics. Jessie J is openly bi but I think she’s forcing the issue with lyrics like My B I T C H is on my dick like this / Dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty sucker / You think I can’t get her like you you motherfucker. Oookayy. Her second single and the album’s opening track, “Price Tag” with B.o.B., is a reliable ditty that you expect to hear any time of the day on KISS-FM … which means anyone reading this is probably too old for this album.
Like a rebellious teen, Jessie J wants to be in-your-face, peppering her songs with curse words, but she plays it safe musically. After listening to all 14 tracks, only one had any traction; otherwise, I could only think about who she sounded like — and that was a long list.
Lady Gaga got flak for “ripping off” Madonna’s “Express Yourself” in “Born this Way,” but at least it was Madonna — a music icon. Jessie J pretty much lifts “Abracadabra” off of Katy Perry’s latest and that’s already a weak source. If pop music is heading in a direction that rips off the likes of her, then I will take this CD and slit my wrists with it.
In “L.O.V.E.,” Jessie J pretty much packs every bad trick in the dance pop book. Spelling a title out just indicates lazy songwriting in addition to the cheesiest and most trite love song lyrics like I said I’d never write a song about love / but when it feels this good/ a song fits like a glove. Each time she repeats the first two letters, it only sounds like Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” A miniscule amount of redemption is in her line that keeps the bi thing going: See love doesn’t choose a boy, or a girl, nope / when I met you, you hugged my heart and filled my world.
For the 13 forgettable tracks that complete the album, she absolutely slays in “Big White Room,” a live track. The acoustic ballad displays her voice as a powerful weapon that we had little hint of in the previous tracks. She does these quirky vocal gymnastics and then knocks out a vocal run Christina Aguilera should be scared of.
With her songwriting skill and wonderful voice, this debut could have been a landmark, but she missed the mark so much, that Jessie J has some catching up to do. She’ll thrive on the radio for now, but she’d be fascinating to see thrive as so much more.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 15, 2011.