14 November 2008

mixtube: girlpop earworms '08

i was gonna do a post with embedded youtube video clips (as a low-hassle alternative to mp3-sharing) but then this came along: mixtube, an excellently-named successor to muxtape (r.i.p.), admirably resourceful and utilitarian-minded, which lets you create and share mux-styled playlists using the audio from any video on youtube. brilliant! (and seemingly relatively riaa-proof, though, we'll see...) (it's especially clever how there are no accounts associated with the playlists; if you want to revise a mix you've made, you don't log in to edit it, you simply make a new one "based on it.")

so here's my first stab, a guided tour through some of my favorite girlpop tracks these days. expect to see most of these show up on a forthcoming installment of ladies love (although one was already on the last one.)

cue it up and listen along!

i must say i haven't been bowled over by too many girl-pop songs this year; unlike '06 the year of synths and sirens (and heiress-pop) or '07 with its uk-chart and disco-soul retro-diva glut, the female artist i've been most excited about in '08 slings a ukelele and lives in my neighborhood (bertine zetlitz comes in a close second, but that was all back-catalog catch-up.) as the year draws toward a close (it's already half-past november - shocker! - and i'm feeling the itch to switch into critical-review mode), the big guns have started coming out of the woodwork (britney, xtina, beyonce, pink), and they've all been more or less misfiring, not so much spectacularly as perfunctorily.

meanwhile, perhaps the clearest contender for my favorite song of the year - if it counts - is cassie's "is it you?," which i first heard late last year. i liked it enough then to slot it first in my 07 year-end mix (which probably disqualifies it.) i still like it now, a hundred or so listens later, and it still hasn't even been released as a single (in this country - it went top ten u.k. r&b, which may not be very impressive), let alone on cassie's still-AWOL second album (the wiki article for which has apparently been deleted seven times in the last year.) it was on the step up 2 the streets soundtrack, which just so happened to launch the year's longest-running #1, a song ("low") which i enjoy a lot less than i enjoy the name of its artist (flo-rida).

"is it you?" was featured in the movie itself (which cassie starred in) over a montage sequence, although the shots of her character performing didn't make the final cut (you can see it as one of the dvd bonus features - which i highly recommend - and, of course, on youtube.) that version was just piano and vocals, featuring producer/rising star ryan leslie on the ivories, but i haven't been able to find an mp3 (or decent-quality youtube audio) of it. instead, this is the "piano version," which is only different for the first thirty seconds before the beat of the "normal version" butts in and it turns out more or less the same. beats me why this hasn't been a smash. maybe next year.

meanwhile, cassie's been doing other stuff - my favorite "new" song of hers is "official girl", which has a great slinky, fresh-sounding beat-displacement beat (can't wait to hear it in higher quality) produced by "danja.... and the.... clutch," as they inform us in probably my favorite producer-id bit ever (it's so cute!) i really like how the weirdly herky-jerky, rushed and overlapping vocal phrasing of the verses (it sounds like she's trying to squeeze in more words than quite fit) contrasts with the relatively languid, drawn-out delivery of the chorus ("i'm tired, i'm tired, i'm tired...") also, ultimatum/verbatim is a pretty sick/silly rhyme. lil wayne does nothing for this one...

another candidate for my fave song of the year is solange knowles' "sandcastle disco", which has, similarly, mysteriously failed to become a massive hit (while her big sister b is ruling the charts with so-so re-hashes of her past glories.) well, not so mysteriously in that it hasn't actually been released as a single yet, which is the only reason i can forgive the u.s. listening public (though i thought they weren't supposed to care about technicalities like that anymore.) literally every time i've played it for somebody they have been remarkably enthusiastic, so i know that it's not just me (it is possibly about a DJ, which might have swayed me a bit.) damn, just listen to it. how can you not swoon? [eta: according to wkpd it's not going to get a u.s. single release. d'oh! also, btw: evidently produced by danes soulshock and karlin, of "leave (get out)" fame, among other things.]

otherwise, the only new girl to really catch my ear lately has been jazmine sullivan, whose album i'm still digesting. it's not quite what you expect from '08 r&b, which in this case is a good thing. shades of jill scott c. 1999 - especially on the willie-hutch-sampling "my foolish heart" - which almost makes me feel old. "dream big" samples daft punk, which is getting obvious but it's in a quite different (and much less obnoxious) way than "stronger," if equally shameless. and the results are pretty irresistible. apparently the missy "suckas!" call-out is really part of the track?

madonna's album this year fell pretty flat (though i actually liked the single ok), but her long-since-eclipsed contemporary cyndi lauper put out a dance-pop album that was, in striking contrast, remarkably tasteful (not surprising) and remarkably decent (not sure), though also not as great as i'd hoped. i haven't decided yet whether i prefer her "lay me down," produced by kleerup, or his mostly-instrumental version of same, "thank you for nothing," allegedly so-titled in churlish response to cyndi not allowing her vocals to appear on his album. anyway, i think "echo" is my favorite track - sleek minimal glide, not too much going on, but lush and lovely nonetheless, and kinda funky.

my hands-down favorite girl/pop full-length of the year, though, was the almost entirely overlooked debut by cloetta paris, which continues to impress and delight me. she deserves a full post later on, but check out "broken heart tango" if you haven't heard her yet.

i've still got some more 2008 to sift through (including the new taylor swift), but apart from a few outliers like ashlee simpson's "boys" and rihanna's "disturbia" - and let's not forget "no air" and "shorty get loose" - that's about the best of it so far. pretty slim pickings indeed. man, what happened this year?

i'll finish up with a few songs from 2007 have been worming their way back around to my brain lately. i never really gave much of an ear to "bottoms up" when i was first listening to keke palmer's album last year, but it is pretty great. big stupid electro crunk'n'b dance jam, with finger-snaps and tweety tweets, an awesome/unfortunate semi-entendre of a title, a rotating parade of quasi-referential hooks, and an utterly charismatic vocal performance from miss keke p. i love her little kelis impression. (completely with MIMS-esque arrangement-quote.) i heard it at a basketball game last week, strangely enough, as part of the half-time cheerleader-dance medley, which also included a mash-up of pink's "so what" (already?) with rihanna's "s.o.s." (i hope it's called "s.o. what." oh, yes, it is.)

i've probably talked about the veronica's "this love" before, but it's been in my head and i thought i'd air it again. apparently their album actually came out here a little while ago, not that anyone noticed (but good because it means i will find a used copy eventually.) this one is pretty near perfect. it pops, it rocks, it dances. and it's way sentimental - and sure, completely melodramatic - but it's damn effective. still tears me up a little, particularly when the v's actually show a bit of vocal restraint on the a capella bits. and the "take on me" snatch at the end is just inspired.

dragonette made an album last year that just came out here, and which i've been listening to a bunch. i'll have more to say later, like that you should probably watch the "take it like a man"
video, which requires some forewarning but is actually much tamer than the song itself.

in the mean time, enjoy the title track from marit larsen's new album, the chase, which i'll get around to reviewing one of these days...

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