Thursday, September 8, 2011



She’s had killer live performances on American Idol, The Billboard Music Awards, the final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show and The 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, among many others. But Beyoncé has not been able to secure her usual chart domination with the singles she’s released from her latest album, 4.

The record is to her what My December was to Kelly Clarkson or what Rated R was to Rihanna: a significantly less commercially mainstream compilation of vulnerable songs that serve more as aural diaries than club-banging monster-hits.

Beyoncé’s willingness to share her innermost feelings on 4 isn’t just limited to the lyrics. The music videos she’s released thus far from the record have been layered with intricate stories that remove the dance floor diva mask of “Single Ladies” and replace it with an artist on the brink of full emotional exposure. The latest and strongest offering? The just-released video for the album’s stirring opening track, “1+1.”

The video serves as a thesis on sex from a female’s perspective. Or rather, Beyoncé’s perspective of what she believes is the (somewhat essentialist) female experience of sex.

To Beyoncé, sex is not just about being physically intimate with a man. She places a strong emphasis on the emotional connection, which signifies the symbiotic relationship of love and lust.

This is most evident in the scenes where Beyoncé is dancing with her man, leaning on him for support and trusting that he’ll keep her safe. She’s fearless about falling, thereby allowing herself to be completely free when with him; her dance moves almost look like the “trust your partner” icebreaker game made famous by summer camp counselors across America. It is shots such as these and the close-ups of her crying from joy that really express Beyoncé’s conviction that love is as much of a part of sex as physical attraction.

Of course, there’s raw sexiness, too, with interspliced shots of B in tantalizing lingerie or suggestively wiping the sweat off her face. It’s the mix of tenderness, trust and sex that offers her definition of what it means to, in her words, “make love.”

Even the colors of the video showcase the merging of the physical and emotional. The shots in which Beyoncé is scantily clad in leopard print lingerie find her against a fiery red backdrop, the core of which burns like an ember and adds a layer of smoke to the room.

By contrast, the scenes that spotlight the aspect of trust and emotional connection are awash in a delicate indigo tint, providing a tranquil setting with a hint of vulnerability.

And when covered in gold, Beyoncé is basking in a glow of the after-effect of her and her lover’s coming together. Mixed in with the diamonds shimmering off of her skin, the gold symbolizes the lovers’ ultimate union that Beyoncé is singing about. She believes that making love removes a woman from her current dimension and transcends her to an ethereal state of being, as further evidenced by the golden aura and glimmering smile that closes the video.

During the musical bridge, the video revs up its sexual engine by framing kaleidoscopic shots of the indigo, red, and gold all crashing into one another. With this scene, the sensuality and vehemence of Beyoncé’s sexual experience is on full display.

The title of “1+1” also captures the concept of the video. The song is named after two individuals bonding together to become one, which is precisely how the sex is depicted. The video opens with Beyoncé by herself and continues to focus entirely on her, grounding her as the strong female character we’ve admired through previous works like “Independent Women” and “Run The World (Girls).”

A man does appear in the video, but only half way through and his face is not shown. The focus never shifts from Beyoncé; it’s her feelings that matter. Even in this collision of bodies and passion, her individuality remains fierce and intact – which is a big part of the message of the song.

Throughout her career, Beyoncé has delivered some of the most unforgettable music videos in recent memory (just ask Kanye!). But none of her earlier videos approach the intimacy level of “1+1.” Artistically brilliant and stuffed with intricate symbolism, the video is easily one of the most honest of the year.

“1+1” may not be the radio hit expected from Beyoncé. Its accompanying video, however, is a true testament to her artistry and fully exemplifies the rawness and personal exposure of 4 as a whole. Besides, it doesn’t hurt the eyes that she has never looked more gorgeous. Personally, I applaud Beyoncé for stretching beyond her comfort zones and creating such a masterful and exquisite piece of work.

Let’s just hope the little Embryoncé growing inside of her doesn’t figure out that this video was shot around the time of his or her conception.

Originally published on MuuMuse
All .GIFs courtesy of MTV Buzzworthy

Wednesday, September 7, 2011



When it comes to successful pop music, 2011 has sparked a striking resemblance to an all-female commune – meaning there hasn’t been a male sighting in quite some time.

Since their live performances at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, sales have skyrocketed for artists like Beyoncé. After the show, her album, 4, had an 87% sales increase, making it the first time its numbers haven’t dropped since its initial release.

Following her heart wrenching performance, Adele’s latest single, “Someone Like You,” has just hit #1. Meanwhile, her album, 21, continues to cremate the sales of basically every other release this year, as it has done since it set up camp on top of the Billboard charts upon its debut in February.

But the VMAs aren’t the only thing that’s made ladies take over the industry. Even good ol’ Christina Aguilera recently got her first #1 single since 2001’s “Lady Marmalade.” Due to “Moves Like Jagger,” Aguilera now has a #1 single in each of the past three decades. I’ll give away a free copy of Bionic to anybody who saw that one coming.

With new singles just released by acts like Leona Lewis, JoJo and Kelly Clarkson (who today dropped the stunning cover art for her new album, Stronger) and upcoming albums by the likes of Demi Lovato and Rihanna, it looks as though the female reign of dominance won’t be letting up anytime soon.

But while all this girl power would make even the Spice Girls proud, there’s been a significant lack of the older women who defined the pop genre. The ones who paved the paths for all the little Selena Gomezes of the world. Namely: Madonna. Well folks, that’s all about to change.

As we prepare for the Holy Madge to descend upon us once more, I invite you to please join me as I usher in the parade to welcome a new era of pop music. Something I like to call, “meno-pop.”

Madonna is currently in the studio beginning work on her 12th studio album. While in Venice this past weekend promoting her directorial film debut, W.E., she spilled some details about the upcoming release (her first since leaving Warner Bros. Records and signing an exclusive, lavish contract with Live Nation).

In addition to confirming the rumors that she’ll be reuniting with Ray of Light and “Beautiful Stranger” producer, William Orbit, Madonna stated that the album’s lead single would be released in either February or March, followed by the full record later in the spring. Warning: the 2012 apocalypse may now come a few months early to regain the spotlight it lost upon this announcement.

So what other collaborators can we expect? Rumors have been circulating about involvement from French DJ extraordinaire David Guetta, although nothing has been officially confirmed. Yet. But one contemporary “it” act you most likely won’t be seeing on the album is Lady GaGa.

GaGa has always been an open Madonna fanatic. So much so that her biggest critics fuel on the allegations that she does nothing more than carbon copy Madonna’s early career. And despite appearing on SNL together, Madonna too seems less than flattered at GaGa’s standom. Or at the very least, confused by it.

"As for Lady GaGa, I have no comment to make about her obsessions having to do with me because I don't know whether her behavior is rooted in something deep and meaningful or superficial," Madonna allegedly told French newspaper Le Soir. Ouch.

In her own little passive aggressive bitch-quit-tryin-to-snatch-my-wig way, Madonna’s comments essentially just prove that GaGa is nothing but a hydrangea in her garden of followers. Some might be attracted to it and consider it a favorite, but Queen M? Oh no, she will not stand for it. Don’t know what I’m talking about? See for yourself with this (already viral) video from this past weekend.

But GaGa’s feelings shouldn’t be hurt for too long. Cher is reading the release of her next album with a lead single (rumored to hit airwaves this month) that is not only written by but also features GaGa. See Lady G? You can still get your slice of meno-pop pie.

When she returns to New York this fall, Madonna will be working on completing her as-of-yet untitled new album through the end of the year. While all other details about the record would be nothing more than speculation, one thing is certain: nobody knows what to expect.

Madonna’s sound has evolved dramatically with each album she’s put out. But no matter what this new album will end up sounding like, the time to start getting excited is now. After all, a new album usually a means a new tour, right?

And I hope for Adele’s sake, she has a nice little country home to retreat to full of fond memories and things that make her happy. Because once Madonna is back, there’ll be no room to share the throne.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011



It’s tricky being innovative when you’re a musician. If you play it safe and stick to an already successful sound, you risk fading into the background and/or being accused of unoriginality. If you experiment with a completely radical and brand new sound, there’s a good chance your stuff won’t be heard by many. So what is there to do? Both, of course.

The number of contemporary artists whose sounds pay homage to decades past is increasing rapidly. What makes these artists stand out, however, is not how well they emulate the musicians before them, but rather how they add their own unique twist to these sounds to make them their own.

Bands like She & Him blend ‘60s girl pop with Simon & Garfunkel-esque rock and contemporary indie folk. Adele continues to reign supreme at the top of the charts with her husky and bluesy Etta James-like voice, combining elements of old school jazz with modern pop. And representing the resurgence of classic rock are Los Angeles’ very own Dawes.

(Dawes' music video for "When My Time Comes")

Since the release of their debut album North Hills in 2009, Dawes has steadily built an incredibly loyal fanbase. And rightfully so. Their amalgamation of vintage rock ‘n roll with today’s folk music results in a clever twist of contemporary Americana in the same vein as bands like Mumford & Sons or Kings of Leon.

At the forefront of this generation’s addition to the legacy of the Laurel Canyon sound, Dawes is comprised of a pair of brothers and two of their friends. Together, their lush harmonies compliment the gritty, sometimes country-tinged feel of their California sunset-tinted music.

This past June, Dawes released their fantastic sophomore album, Nothing Is Wrong to massive critical acclaim. To further enhance their classic rock cred, Dawes enlisted help from old greats such as Benmont Tench of The Heartbreakers (who also contributed to North Hills) and Jackson Browne. To do backup vocals and instrumentations. THAT is how good Dawes are. They can get veteran legends of the industry to not only ask to work with them but to not even be heavily featured.

“After two years of fine-tuning their live sound, all of the members of Dawes have become master musicians not only individually, but as a collective,” wrote Paste Magazine in their review of the record. “While many bands often succumb to the fabled ‘sophomore slump’ after an impressive debut (such as North Hills), Dawes appears to have never even heard the phrase,” they concluded.

Nothing Is Wrong came as a true musical evolution for Dawes. The band has clearly matured in the two years since North Hills. Their already evocative lyrics, for instance, have transformed into full-fledged poetry.

(Dawes performs "Time Spent In Los Angeles" on The David Letterman Show)

“But you got that special kind of sadness, you got that tragic set of charms that only comes from time spent in Los Angeles, makes me wanna wrap you in my arms,” the band croons in their lead single off of Nothing Is Wrong, “Time Spent in Los Angeles.” The song has so much vintage flavor you would swear it was an unreleased Neil Young track from his days of prime.

So if you find yourself perusing for new, smart, and emotionally charged music this fall, give Dawes a chance. I promise they’ll have your foot tapping one minute in. And if you can, be sure to catch the boys on tour now with Blitzen Trapper.