Friday, April 17, 2015

Track By Track Throwback: "Cocoon" by Queen Of Hearts
When she's not busy cameoing on dance singles and dishing out acoustic Christmas covers, crystal pop goddess Queen of Hearts works hard at being one of NSOTPop's favorite popstars. Since the turn of the decade, the Queen has delivered one elegant disco gem after another. Then, out of nowhere, Queen of Hearts pulled a semi-Beyoncé and released her debut album Cocoon last summer! Giving us one of the most iconic debut albums ever, her Majesty certainly made 2014 a better year to be a pop fan so let's break down each track and get to the heart of this album's royal DNA.

1. Freestyle

Sometimes, you can see greatness from a million miles away, or by a couple of seconds. The "Freestyle" teaser was one of the best ways of announcing a pop sensation on the brink of setting the world on fire! The Dreamtrak produced single is by far the best song Queen of Hearts has ever put out and was the best way to begin her debut. The frosty Goldfrapp-esque tune chugged along like the Robyn song never recorded but you can easily tell that Elizabeth Morphew's name is all over it. The peacock headpiece is an added bonus, I'm sure you will agree!

2. Neon

While "Freestyle" is certainly the Queen's best work, "Neon" was the big pop moment that should have sent her sky-high into the pop stratosphere. The throbbing electro production mixed with the gothic take on classic disco made the song just as momentous as it's obviously genius title. The queen certainly knew how to take familiar sounds to pop fans and change them ever so slightly to fit her unique aesthetic. If Lady Gaga can make a career doing it, then the Queen is sure to break through sometime or other.

3. Secret

"Secret" was the last single Mme Hearts released before the album came and saw a little darker turn in music, as evident by the crunchy electric guitar in the intro. Still, the "One step moves closer, but two steps I'm taken back" theme of the song is classic Morphew at work. Certainly one of the standout tracks on an album brimming with that same level of lyrical genius.

4. ColourBlind

One of the things that ended up surprising me most about Cocoon was Queen of Hearts ability to pop out a smashing ballad! "ColourBlind" is by far the best one on the album but it is a warm and lovely ode to blind love (regardless of the British spelling that keeps getting switched with autocorrect!). The track is produced by Diamond Cut and is a shimmering breather to some of the album's darker points. As Mel B would say, the album certainly excels in highlighting the light and shade of the Queen's voice.

5. Like A Drug

Now, here's where things get interesting. "Like A Drug" was a previous Song Of The Day back when the album first came out, mainly because I had no idea the Queen had a banger in her. The better parts of the song make it an energetic popper that could have easily been the best Kylie comeback single since "Can't Get You Out Of My Head." And there can be no higher compliment.

6. It Isn't Enough

Another Diamond Cut production, "It Isn't Enough" does the job any popstar should set out to accomplish on an album. It is a song that sounds slightly ahead of its time. It is a bouncing crystalline number that changes tempo throughout, keeping the listener on their toes! Very clever, your Highness!

7. Surrender

BALLAD ALERT! And it's not just any ballad. The Queen of Hearts decided to rope in Rod Stewart to help write and produce the track. For those unfamiliar (really, I talk about him a lot you know?), that would be the name of Bright Light Bright Light, the best male popstar on the planet at the moment. One thing that he knows best is how to make a emotive, gorgeous ballad, which is exactly what "Surrender" accomplishes.

8. Warrior

This one came out a while ago but was still as much a stunner. "Warrior" somehow managed to mix some Eastern influences into the electronic sound the Queen cultivated over time, all while sounding like you were going to a mystical beach vacation 20 years in the future. It sounds a little out of place on the album but is a testament to Ms. Hearts' ability to be the best pop chameleon in the game.

9. Shoot The Bullet

Queen of Hearts sure knows how to pick her collaborators. "Shoot The Bullet" was the lead single off her "Arrival" EP and was produced by none other than Stefan Storm. Storm happens to be half of the Swedish dream pop duo The Sound Of Arrows, whose album Voyage I recently listened to again and can confirm, they know how to make great music. This song however, lacks the warm majesty of classic Arrows songs and replaces it with the Queen's signature icy aesthetic. Can I suggest Richard X for next time, please?

10. Heartbeat 

It is a known musical fact that every song that includes Heartbeat in the name happens to be amazing. More to come on this soon, but "Heartbeat" by The Queen of Heart(beat)s is certainly the best album track. It's a layered menagerie of echoes and heavenly vocals atop a beat that is both mechanical and romantic. Hopefully, this song will be the stepping stone for the Queen's future output.

11. Angel

Now the Queen is getting to some epic pop synthness. "Angel" is one of those slow-burning songs that sounds absolutely massive thanks to the production by Devil's Gun (who also did "Secret" and "Heartbeat"). Not much else to say other than there doesn't seem to be a single thing the Queen can't accomplish. It's like she has a checklist of things to make an amazing album and she's just checking one off after another.

12. Overcome By The Rhythm

Now THAT is an amazing title, isn't it? This one is a little more upbeat than we're used to with the Queen at this point but it's a welcome addition to the disco playlist you can slowly build with these tracks. It also uses a four on the floor the correct way, which has to be applauded! It also has 2 choruses!! Dear god, someone make this woman a superstar!!!

13. Suicide

Oh no, it's the first dud. Luckily, it's the only dud. Compared to the other tracks on the album, there were just too many producers doing too many different things on "Suicide", leading to a labored yet uneventful filler track. If I may, she could have replaced this one with insane dub step hurricane "Black Star" or the Valentine's Day anthem "Moment In Love". Just some food for thought.

14. Tears In The Rain

To end the album, Queen of Hearts decided to make the expert decision to add the tears on the dance floor dedication to a certain bastard, aka the former King of Hearts. "Tears In The Rain" is a beautiful electroballad that sums up pretty much every emotion that you will come across the album: love, hate, sorrow, hope. It transcends a lot of the different styles Queen of Hearts has adopted and solidified her position as one of pop's most precious artists.

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Buy Cocoon on iTunes right here!

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