Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Next Big Thing: Whinnie Williams Is The Retro Popstar We Need Right Now

That little fluff ball is Brian. He is a little gray French poodle that stars in the video below.

As you can see, he has the makings of a popstar in his own right (album in 2017 possibly?) but equally as amazing is that his owner is Whinnie Williams. She's the girl in the video with the lovely legs and singing voice. "You Don't Love Me" was released in February 2013 as Whinnie's "debut" single and everything about her "introduction" was perfect. A self-described lover of everything French and romantic, Whinnie executed her vision of a puppy-loving heartbroken girl walking through the Parisian streets perfectly. Honestly, this song would be the perfect soundtrack to a Chanel ad. Now you may be wondering why air quotes were used during Whinnie's "beginning." Well, much like previous Song of the Day recipient A-L-X (Alex Gardner), Whinnie isn't new on the pop scene. This is more apparent after seeing the video for follow up single "Break Hearts In Your Sleep."

For pop aficionados like myself, that face really rings a bell.
It's Sunday Girl!
Both Whinnie and Sunday Girl are monikers for pop darling Jade Williams, singer-songwriter famous for underground hits back in 2010. After signing with Polydor Records, Sunday Girl made a name for herself by creating catchy electropop but presenting herself as more of an indie singer. Songs like "Four Floors" and "Love U More" showed just how brilliant this alt-Florrie like singer could be. She built up her reputation by collaborating with Martin Solveig, opening for Ellie Goulding and writing for Madonna. That's right, MADONNA! I guess she lost steam since then and decided to step back from the music, get a cute dog, and rethink her whole game plan.

Frankly, this new persona of a retro 50's loving pop princess makes a lot more sense than the whole Sunday Girl project. Her new musical output, which includes two free mix tapes on her Souncloud, takes the sounds of the past and reworks them to fit the pop market right now without ever losing the magic that made the songs classics. And really, Jade's voice is silky gold and sets her apart from all the crazy belters out there. Though singles like "You Don't Love Me" and "Break Hearts In Your Sleep," show all of Whinnie's best qualities, her reworking of songs like "Doo Wop" and "Bills, Bills, Bills" display the ingenue that make her upcoming EP so exciting to wait for. If it is anything like her cover of Solange's excellent "Losing You," Whinnie will slowly but surely gain a lot of fans around the world and possibly help launch her dog's music career as well.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Song Of The Day: "Kisses for Breakfast" by Melissa Steel feat. Popcaan
My favorite female pop singer at the moment is Melissa Steel. Granted, even though that changes once every 2-3 days, Melissa wholeheartedly deserves it. She's only got 3 songs to her name but that was enough to reel in a record deal and create a huge amount of buzz for her. Earlier this year, she snagged her first chart position after featuring on this pulse-racing banger by Kove.

With one hit under her belt, Melissa decided to record one of the sweetest pop songs this year with her debut single "Kisses for Breakfast." A collaboration with dancehall singer Popcaan, it quickly established her as the first British femme to mix reggae with breezy pop music and you will really like what you hear. Kisses for Breakfast perfectly encapsulates the feeling of waking up with your boo on the beach and it's paired with the epitome of what an ace summer music video should be. It matches the season so well it got to number 10 on the charts after its release last week. Impressive Ms. Steel, and if you happen to open a bed and breakfast anytime soon, I'll have my kisses over easy please.

The Next Big Thing: Dancing Like It's 1975 with Ronika

As a 90's bitch that has the heart of a 70's kid, there is nothing I like more than a good disco track. The kind of disco track that makes you want to wear glittery outfits, burn up the dancefloor, and revel in the sheer fun that that era was famous for. However, since the turn of the millennium, it's been extremely hard to find music that is proper for a discotheque without being a cheesy pastiche of the past. Though artists like Lady Gaga, La Roux, and Ladyhawke made amazing music influenced by that early 80's style of pop, they could never really emulate the sound the same way. For a lot of people, disco fever never ended and though I may not be part of that generation, I still wish there was a popstar who captured everything that made the electronic ecstasy of the 70's amazing but with a modern take that would help the music endure the test of time.

That all changed in 2011 when Ronika entered the scene. Raised on the exact type of music that got everyone grooving in Studio 54, this Nottingham-born popstar decided it was her turn to put her mark on the world with her signature brand of retro electropop. Although she started out with acoustic folk songs (don't we all Roni?), she saw the light after going to a techno rager when she was 14. Her first proper release was the Forget Yourself EP that pretty much summed up this lover of the glamorous and fabulous. "Forget Yourself" and "Wiyoo" have every quality I described earlier plus the addition of Ronika's sass that immediately made it clear that she was ready to revolutionize the pop game.

Ronika Sampson takes her music very seriously and has written, produced, mixed, and mastered every one of her songs. In a world where popstars don't really have a connection to some of their best songs because 10 other writers wrote them, you have got to respect the time and energy Ronika puts into her craft. Over the past 3 years, Ronika has slowly but steadily churned out EPs, singles, collaborations and remixes. Highlights include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. The dance breakdown in "Only Only" where she declares "You will be my guy"
2. Her remix of Little Boots (who she also toured with #goodtaste) "Headphones" is many shades of glorious
3. "Automatic" is a piece of musical gold and was my 2nd favorite song out of everything that came out in 2012
4. Her collaboration "How Could I Live Without You (Make It Right)" with French DJ Herve brings the energy to every dancefloor across the world

In 2013, Ronika was poised to properly take over after releasing the truly magnificent "Rough 'n' Soothe" and making a brilliantly tropical video to accompany it. An amazingly complex trop-pop jam that makes you want to dance among neon disco balls and palm trees, it continued her reign as the premiere DIY artist that would follow the same vein of greatness that Charli XCX took to reach success. Unfortunately, Ronika took a hit to her health after an autoimmune disease knocked her out for a bit. Thankfully, Ronika made a great recovery, got married, and used the time to finish creating her debut album Selectadisc.

One of the reasons that makes me love Ronika so much is that she is a popstar that loves pop music just as much as I do. To the point that you can get excited by her music because she truly loves making it and listening to it. Her love is clear as the album was named after a childhood record shop in Nottingham that shut down. It's endearing to know that she respects the music that helped make her amazing and her album doesn't fail to live up to her expectations. Selectadisc is one of those rare albums that has no filler tracks and each song represents the core of what Ronika is as an artist: an ethereal, glamorous pop diva that captures the sounds of the past and future effortlessly. Including all of her previous hits (except "Automatic" which is an oversight Ms. Ronika), the album takes you on a journey, from dancefloor jams like "Only Only" and "In The City" to chilled out jams like "Believe It", from bouncy fun-filled pop like "What's In Your Bag" to dramatic electronic masterpieces like "Earthrise" and "Search Siren." Ronika has created one of the best records of 2014 by essentially making the best album that was not created in the 70's and 80's. I truly love Ronika and hope that she has the most success as this musical prodigy is too good to be ignored. So thank you Ronika, for letting me feel like I'm back in the glory days of the past every time I play your album.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Album Review: "Life Is Easy" by Bright Light Bright Light

I'm just gonna go ahead and say that I have a major crush on Rod Thomas, the Welsh electronic singer-songwriter who performs under the moniker Bright Light Bright Light. One listen to his single "Waiting For The Feeling" and I was hooked. It's rare for a male pop singer to be so vulnerable and go for a Little Boots-esque electropop sound, but BLBL pulls it off spectacularly and his debut in 2012 Make Me Believe In Hope was one of the best albums of the year. Plus, if you aren't into the whole sensitive and intelligent type with a beautiful voice (you're crazy clearly), he's rather attractive physically as well, as this photo clearly indicates. Luckily for us, he's back with his second album this year that manages to surpass all expectations.

Life Is Easy is Rod's second foray into creating a modern sound that mixes the disco sound of the late 80's with pulsing house music. If his last album steered towards the former influence, this second album is a hard-hitting testament to dance. Though the production is extremely reminiscent of Pet Shop Boys classics, Rod can take full credit for the writing and production on this record. And really, he's outdone himself this time.

The album begins much like Make Me Believe In Hope with "Everything I Ever Wanted" displaying Bright Light Bright Light's soft murmurs atop a quiet yet pulsing sound, telling a story of lost love where Rod's righteousness is in the spotlight. Continuing to chronicle his heartbreak in song, Rod Thomas manages to make bittersweet memories sound magical, especially with tracks like "There Are No Miracles" and "Good Luck" propelling into your head on some of the catchiest pop hooks of the year. 

The first single to be taken from the album is highlight "I Believe" whose ambitious production makes it the most infectious track on the album and a real contender to bring Bright Light Bright Light toward mainstream success. Over his howls of "I don't know what you've done to me", Rod takes his spot as the closest we might get to a male counterpart of Kylie Minogue. The positivity continues as "Lust for Life" and "More Than Most" show BLBL trying to seek out the love that he knows has to exist, which gives us all hope that we might find it too.

If there was anymore proof of his talent, Rod Thomas also caught the eye of fellow homosexual pop hitmaker Elton John. Their collaboration "I Wish We Were Leaving" has to be one of the most earnest pieces of music to discuss unrequited love. Though Thomas's balladry sets him up for massive pop moments since his debut, upbeat electronica suits him just as well. "In Your Care"'s beautiful sensitivity has a great dichotomy with the crystalline "Too Much", whose bridge and 3rd chorus clinch the deal on making this one of the best albums of the year.

Much like Next Big Thing recipient Ronika, Bright Light Bright Light is the best kind of popstar, as he loves pop music just as much as we do. Thankfully so, this makes him understand the right lovelorn lyrics, the right electronic production, and overall pleasant persona can make all the difference. Combine that with his natural talent at songwriting and producing and you will fall as much in love with his album as you will with his whole aura. Life Is Easy is a major moment in music at this time and every track really deserves a listen, as I have been doing everyday since it came out.

Best Listened To: On a long train ride to get away from a long lost lover
Standout Tracks: "I Believe" "Too Much" "There Are No Miracles" "In Your Care"

NSOTPop Rating: 10/10

Song of The Day: "Wrong Club" by The Ting Tings

Clarification: That is not a member of The Ting Tings

2008 called and it's here to say that The Ting Tings are back. Responsible for the British alternative-pop revival in America, The Ting Tings have really been gone from the music scene for too long. Let's all remember how amazing "Great DJ" and "That's Not My Name" were. Honestly, the last time I saw from the group was when they performed on SNL after their first album had been released. Their rebellious punk attitude had let them stand out among the blasé R&B that was taking over the radio at the time. However, they took it a little too far after their second album never really made an impact in either the UK or the US.

Good thing pop stars learn from their mistakes. The duo have reportedly spent time in the party capital of the world Ibiza crafting their new album and it is sure to be a much more danceable affair, especially if "Wrong Club" is any indication of what's to come. A nice 80's throwback, it admittedly sounds like Daft Punk's summer hit "Get Lucky" but with that groovy baseline and "oh-oh's" it is less in your face with the whole "breezy" summer jam thing. Hopefully, the duo can match Daft Punk's success, especially with the bizarre fun video. If all else fails, Katie "Ting Ting" can surely become a beauty guru and teach us how to get that wild mane!

Monday, August 4, 2014

An Artist Retrospective: Dancing with Florrie for 4 years

Endless Florries!!!!
It's time to talk about one of biggest talents in the world right now, Ms. Florence Arnold. Now that doesn't exactly have the ring of a mega popstar with legendary status so she'd prefer it if you called Florrie. A pop prodigy in every sense of the word, Florrie is one of those extremely rare singers whose songs never sound like anything else out there, yet work so ridiculously well. Since 2010, Florrie has released a steady stream of content that could have easily made for an excellent debut album. However, her start was actually in 2008 when she successfully auditioned to be the in-house drummer for pop production maestros Xenomania. Good move Flo Flo!

Xenomania's track record speaks for itself and Florrie quickly joined the ranks of its genius songwriters; notable achievements include playing the drums on Girls Aloud's "The Promise" and writing Mini Viva's "One Touch." With a little push from head writer Brian Higgins (who basically made Cher's "Believe"), Florrie started her own music career and a choir of angels approved of that decision. It was around this time that I found the Fred Falke remix of her second single "Call 911" and was immediately hooked. Back in her early days, Florrie's signature appeared to be a fast-paced heavenly vocal atop an electronic production that was both futuristic and retro, which basically meant it was amazing.

After some further digging around on her website, it became clear Florrie was interested more in her fans than a record deal and released many remixes and her Introduction EP for free download. Highlights on remixes include the Fred Falke Club Mix of "Panic Attack" and Billa's No Love Lost Remix of "Fascinate Me" (it's dubstep without being annoying!). You could even get her debut single "You Wanna Start Something" which has to be the best debut Xenomania single since the Aloud started.

With each EP released since Florrie started, she hasn't failed to create each track with its own identity and the uniqueness of her songs make you come back for more more more. The high-speed jungle soundtrack "Call Of The Wild" shows Florrie's perfect understanding of the essential pop hook while the drums on  "Give Me Your Love" has to be one of the best additions in percussion history. With Xenomania focusing all their power into Florrie as an artist, it's no surprise that songs like "Summer Nights" and the Aloud-esque power electroballad "Left Too Late" brought Florrie to the forefront of the underground music scene back in the day.

Her songs eventually brought her fame in more than just music. If you couldn't tell, Florrie is rather gorgeous and subsequently became a model for various brands. This led to her lovely Nina L'Elixer ad where she covered Blondie's "Sunday Girl." But as all good popstars do, Florrie didn't take a break and started to craft her second EP, 2011's magnificent Experiments. The new EP saw Florrie work with Xenomania and Fred Falke once again but also fellow young geniuses like MNEK and old pros like Miranda Cooper. Every track on the EP is flawless but its second single was what we in the pop blogging biz call "a GAMECHANGER!"

"I Took A Little Something" was the brightest, breeziest song released in the past decade and the video collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana shows Florrie acting cute and coy, just reveling in her glory. You need to really listen to the 7 minute Fred Falke Mix to understand its true majesty but nonetheless, Florrie cemented her spot as one of my fave popstars and also took 2011's best song title with this diamond of music.

The fun was nearly over however, as her 3rd EP Late would be her last independent release as she finally cinched a major label record deal. But she still brought the goods with much harder hitting music that still told epic stories of Florrie's escapades. Songs like "Shot You Down" and "To The End" which was written with Annie!!!!, show Florrie's sound evolving into something much more grandiose but we can count on her to make us dance as "Every Inch" clearly does to this day.

Her latest Sirens EP also showed a shift in music. Released earlier this year on Sony Records, the songs still had Florrie's unpredictably throughout their structure but the new pop hooks were like audible cocaine and would not leave your system for weeks at a time. One listen to "Free Falling" will make it very clear what I'm talking about as Florrie sings the verse, sing the verse, sing the verse. She EVEN does it in reverse, in reverse, in reverse! Though the EP only has 3 new songs, they continue Florrie's perfect track record and her mythical and long-awaited debut album is supposedly out before the end of the year! We received the first taste of that when Florrie released her first major label single "Little White Lies" earlier in the summer and finally announced herself as the pop savior that we all needed. Follow her on Youtube to keep updated on this exciting development! In a post-Aloudian world, Florrie is the brightest hope for an amazing pop future and I have full confidence in her as not everyone can be my favorite popstar!