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Music

The Way I Dance mash-up

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My debut mash-up is up up up.

Milky Chance – Stolen Dance (Fear of Dawn Edit)
Timbaland ft. Keri Hilson – The Way I Are (Acapella)

Nicole Scherzinger – Big Fat Lie [review]

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Poor Nicole. Despite of all her efforts and promising promo deals, she never really evolved from ‘the ex-Pussycat Doll frontwoman’ into a full-fledged solo star. Her 2011’s debut LP (which wasn’t even released in the States) was very flamboyant and screamed ‘I’ve arrived’ on top of Nicole’s lungs but was a bit too Eurovisiony to really cement her status. And even though her best solo single so far was called ‘Don’t Hold Your Breath’, I did hold my breath for a proper ‘Nicole The Solo Artist’ moment: she surely has the voice, the moves and the looks of a potential pop slayer. Well, not this time for sure: with ‘Big Fat Lie’ she’s going for more ‘mature’ sound which means that we’re getting tons of medtempo tunes which is the least thing we’d expect or want from a girl who made a name for herself as the voice behind ‘Don’t Cha’ and ‘Buttons’.

Perhaps the personal approach to the album would work better if it had a big power ballad or two, but it’s nowhere to be seen as well. ‘Run’ and ‘On The rocks’ are both strong and emotional songs but they lack the spark that made Nicole such a fantastic performer in the past. Overall it’s questionable if there really were a lot of people in Nicole’s fanbase who craved a moody (even if well-produced) record from her. There is a cute little ‘it’s tough being a popstar’ moment in the form of the album’s title track and stripping all the layers seems to be the ongoing theme on the record but let’s be honest: Nicole was way more fun when she stuck to the actual stripping.

The big fat truth here is that the album’s quite solid: the production is consistent and multi-layered and the 90s influences are spot. It’s just hard to believe it will find its audience as Nicole never developed a steady fanbase with all her scrapped releases, failed international strategies and horrible time management. And the idea that in some happier alternative universe we could’ve gotten 5 years’ worth of The Pussycat Dolls bangers instead of this depressed little collection certainly doesn’t help.

6/10

Friendly Voice

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It’s always nice to see you friends doing a good job. Especially when it’s on the biggest singing competition on your country’s main TV station. So it’s pretty safe to say I was quite happy for my long-time friend Ksana Sergienko doing more than fine during her audition on last night’s The Voice Russia.

Back in 2010, during my first US trip, I saw Ksana destroying the stage as the frontwoman of the hard rock band Oxzana at the New Music Seminar convention. I was absolutely captivated by her voice, looks and nuclear charisma so it’s no brainer I ended writing about her on more than one occasion and we eventually became good friends.

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Here are 2 of my articles about Ksana:

This one was in Billboard Russia in February 2011, when I was running the ‘Fresh Blood’ section in the magazine.

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And this is the feature I did for a Status Chicago magazine (2012) featuring a stunning photo by our mutual friend, photographer Yura Liamin – who’s also responsible for my website’s main photo:

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And here’s my favorite Oxzana song – a dark ballad about a prostitute called ‘Worthless’ which I was lucky enough to hear in its original form during one of the band’s early rehearsals. I still think it will become a hit one day.

But for now – go win that show, babe!

Your next favorite boyband is here

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The X Factor UK is in full swing – the boot camp is over and I can surely say that we’ve already seen and heard this season’s pop-Godzilla. Simon Cowell’s new weapon of massive destruction is a 8-piece boyband which is currently titled New Boy Band (I say keep the name – it’s genius!). Surely it was only a matter of time before UK would start adopting K-pop’s approach to boy/girlbands (which is rather simple – the bigger the better). And it’s absolutely no surprise it’s mister Cowell who’s put two and two (or more like four and four) together and turned 8 cute and young solo singers into a shiny megaband, that easily overshadowed their competitors – a mediocre One Direction knockoff ‘Overload’.

I’m yet to see if New Boy Band (I mean come on, don’t you just love that name?!) will become my favorites during the live shows, but it’s pretty safe to say that even in the current unstable state of the music industry their future smells of cash money.

In other news: Cheryl still looks cute when she cries, but Mel B (when present on set) is stealing some of her spotlight this season. But only one of them has a performance option on the show, so hey, they’re even.

10 songs for the perfect Saturdays

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The Saturdays are quite an interesting band. They’ve been around for 6 years – eternity in a female pop world – yet they hardly ever crossed any boundaries: no scandals, no dramas, no big experiments – just a lot of marriages, polite smiles and lazy dancing. But even though they played it rather safe for most of their career, they still managed to release an impressive collection of enjoyable bangers. With their first (and let’s hope not last) greatest hits compilation out, it’s time to re-visit their poptastic catalogue and pick the 10 best tunes. Here’s my ultimate The Saturdays collection.

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The Saturdays first single (‘If This Is Love’) was easy to miss, but they have properly arrived with this hell of a pop banger that served as their second single. Beware of the album version though: radio edit is what you want. That chorus!

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TBT: Juliet Simms

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How about a little Throwback Thursday? Here’s me interviewing awesome Juliet Simms at Sony Music’s NYC office back in August 2010, when Juliet was promoting her band Automatic Loveletter‘s debut record. It was long before she got her big solo break at The Voice (and before I learned how to use the hairspray). We had a lovely chat that concluded with us geeking out about who our favorite Buffy characters were (it was Glory for Juliet and Faith for me).

Photos by Ryan Paul Hancock

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Kelsey Ellison Interview

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Avril Lavigne may have cause a bit of a riot with her shockingly bad Japanese-inspired ‘Hello Kity’ video, but when it comes to doing justice to J-world, there’s hardly another firecracker like British YouTuber Kelsey Ellison. For years she made YouTube a much more kawaii place and now she’s ready to kick off a music career, too. Her debut single, Maya von Doll-penned ‘Pom Pom’, is a perfect introduction to what’s yet to come: it’s ridiculously catchy, fun and just the right amount of crazy. Obviously I had to find out what was going on behind-the-scenes on that video shoot and, as Kelsey put it herself, inside her ‘cartoon like brain’.

What’s the story of Kelsey?

I come from the land of the Jelly Shoes and the Spice Girls, A.K.A the nineties. I’m from the U.K and I grew up in a small town in South Yorkshire called Barnsley. My Dad has been in various bands and my Mum is a Musical Theatre lover, so I’ve been surrounded by music since a very young age. After I had an operation on my eye when I was three, I lost a lot of confidence, so my Mum took me to dancing classes, and I got a huge passion for it! When I got told in career advice at school that performing wasn’t really a real job, I decided I wanted to be a performer for a living.

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Alison Fraser’s Tennessee Williams CD

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There’s something about my dear friend Alison Fraser. Something about her abilities to light up any room she walks into, to keep her glowing charisma onstage and behind-the-scenes and to make everyone around herself feel warmed and loved. And then there’s The voice. And that’s what I’m going to focus today as it’s the official release day of the two times Tony Award nominee’s latest CD entitled ‘Tennessee Williams: Words and Music’. The album follows Alison’s 2012’s one-woman show ‘Only a Paper Moon: A Tennessee Williams Songbook’, which saw her re-imagining songs and monologues from the various Williams plays with the help of the pianist Allison Leyton-Brown. So in case you missed the actual show (like I sadly did), the new album will surely bring that Broadway swank right into your home. Alison shifts from one character to another, taking on different accents, age and emotions while showcasing her impressive range . Filling the multi-genre collection of songs with her usual mix of elegance and flirtation, Alison once again proves that she is indeed a perfect Tennessee Williams lady. Trust me (and not the ‘The Party’s Over’ number): the party’s never over with this one.

Buy the CD here: http://www.twwordsandmusic.com

Sohodolls are back: Interview with Maya von Doll about ‘Mayday’ EP

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I’m not going to lie: I have a very soft spot for miss Maya von Doll. First of all, she’s responsible for one of the best electro-rock-pop bangers of the 00s called, well, ‘Stripper’ (you really can’t go wrong with such title). But even when she’s not shouting ‘Hey, stripper!’, Maya stays magical, seductive and a bit tongue-in-cheek no matter what she’s doing: rocking the stage as the boss of Sohodolls, dropping hot electro beats as a solo artist or coming up with clever little pop numbers for artists like Nicola Roberts (whose ‘Cinderella’s Eyes’ is by far the best solo album of a Girls Aloud member). I’ve been holding my breath for new Sohodolls music for a long time and it did arrive in the most unexpected way: earlier this month Maya just dropped the new EP on iTunes. The record is called ‘Mayday’ and features 3 songs that form a perfectly logical follow up to 2007’s ‘Ribbed Music for the Numb Generation’: it has the familiar amount of flirt, danger and silky vocals that made Sohodolls one of the most remarkable electro pop bands of the 00s. Now it’s time to ask Maya a couple of questions about the release and what we should expect from her camp this year.

That’s quite a surprise EP release. Did you plan it long ahead or was it a spontaneous decision to bring Sohodolls back?

It was spontaneous. I just realized that there was still so much love for the band online that people deserved to hear unreleased songs.

What happened to Sohodolls in between the debut album’s release and ‘Mayday’?

We left our label, rewrote a second album, almost moved to LA to record it with a big producer out there. But I got distracted writing for other artists like Nicola Roberts. It was something I had always wanted to do, it just came at the wrong time for Sohodolls.

You’re working with a lot of other artists these days – give me some details!

Actually I’m not. I’ve been writing a lot for myself in a new grown-up way since January 2013 and only writing for two select other acts who will debut in summer. My ethos now is ‘less is more’.

Will you continue the solo career and if not – what will happen with all the electro stuff you’ve recorded for yourself?

Yes, the solo career continues and I have a secret show in April in London. The electro stuff – a good song lasts forever so the good stuff has already found a new home!

What does 2014 hold for you?

The best year in a long time!

Get ‘Mayday’ on iTunes

Photo: Jeff Hahn

It’s all about HER: Interview with Veva

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You can’t do an iconic teen movie without a punchy soundtrack. And Darren Stein got it right with the ‘GBF’ – just like he did 15 years ago with the ‘Jawbreaker’ OST. One of the highlights of the ‘GBF’ soundtrack is Veva’s ‘HER’ – delicious electro pop number with a killer chorus: ‘H, my hips, E, emotion, R, the rhythm’ (spelling and pop music always blend very well). I chatted with the girl behind the hips, emotions and the rhythm. Meet Florida-based singer Veva and get to know her story.  

Who is Veva and what’s her story?

Well, that’s a long story, and it kinda incorporates two questions. I grew up in Toledo, a small industrial town in Northwest Ohio, where my best friend and now music partner Matthew Paul only lived blocks away. We eventually met and it was over from there. His mom used to tell him that his twin was here when I arrived at his house. He noticed my pipes when I was about 14, and always encouraged me to pursue singing. Growing up in a poor family it was a struggle. But at my 6th grade recognition people started to notice my talent when I performed ‘Hero’ by Mariah Carey. Fast forward to middle school, and I was in choir, and then in high school I was in the gospel choir. After the death of my sister in the early 2000′s I decided to take the bull by the horns: Matthew and I pow wowed how we would get to the ‘American Idol’. I went but didn’t quite make the cut, so we started researching and after a long drawn out conversation I packed and took off to sunny Florida. We placed Craigslist adds and networked for a producer. Justin Diggs answered the call and that’s how “HER” was born. After that we buckled down in the studio and recorded many other tracks, but it wasn’t until ‘GBF’ that we finally had something.

What’s the story behind ‘HER’ and how did the song end up on the ‘GBF’ soundtrack?

Justin Diggs approached Matthew and me with the demo for ‘HER’ in early 2011 which had a hook but no verses and bridge at the time. I was like ‘Wow, this is a really great track! It has massive potential’. So we did an informal writing session which turned into ‘HER’. And we had many difficulties in the studio: I do believe at one point we lost a bunch of files. It really was an adventure. We then contacted Tom Baker for mastering and once we got it back, we just KNEW! I had the strangest feeling. Matthew has always been fan of ‘Jawbreaker’ so it didn’t surprise me while networking that he would run into the famous ‘Jawbreaker’ director Darren Stein. Matthew made the connection, he met Darren Stein and they became professional friends. Darren at the time was looking for new music for his movie ‘GBF’. Matthew sent him a few of our songs and Darren fell in love with ‘HER’ which alongside ‘Love Gun’ made its way into the film. ‘HER’ plays during the sexy slow motion strut scene and again in the credits and Love Gun plays in a hilar scene with Megan Mullally (Mrs. Van Camp), Michael Willet (Tanner) and Paul Iacono (Brent). ‘HER’ also made its way onto the ‘GBF’ soundtrack!

Do you have a GBF?

LOL Yes: Matthew Paul.

 Is ‘She’s a monster’ line anyhow connected to Lady Gaga?

As much as I Love Lady GaGa, that’s a no. ‘She’s a monster’ just means ‘she’s fierce, she’s on fire, she’s out of her shell’. We had no intent on that at all. Honestly I didn’t know anything about the connection until after the fact.

Are you a party girl? If so (and even if you’re not!) – share your wildest party experience with me. No holding back!

Well, there have been so many!!! Haha, but I would have to say that anytime Matthew Paul and Veva get together…Enough said!

What’s next for you?

Sky’s the limit! I’m working on a plethora of projects right now including a few music videos and more music. So I’m geared up and ready to take on the world! I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for myself and Team Veva! Get your fangs out!

You can get ‘GBF’ soundtrack on iTunes.