RED-BLOODED VALENTINE?… Chances are it’ll be February before we get more love from Kylie Minogue. But many an American gay boy will consider that a happy Valentine, just as her last set, Body Language, was in 2004. Billboard reports Minogue’s first album since her battle with breast cancer will see release November 26 internationally — meaning everywhere but here. (The North American release has not yet been determined.) The album is titled X, a nod to the fact that it’s the Australian superstar’s tenth album more than it is a sign that she’s feeling as sexually charged as before. Though with song titles such as ”In My Arms,” ”Sensitized,” ”Wow,” ”Like a Drug” and especially ”Nu-di-ty,” chances are, as she would put it, she’ll skip a beat and move with your body. First single ”2 Hearts” will start beating a few weeks prior to the album’s November release everywhere but here. Also on the way is a documentary, White Diamonds, which chronicles Minogue’s return to performing after her surgery in 2005….
MATERIAL GIRL, NEW AND OLD… But before we hear new Kylie, how about some Madonna? Reincarnated Madonna, that is. Specifically, a Madonna tribute album to benefit Madonna’s own Raising Malawi charity, which works with HIV/AIDS orphans in the African country. But don’t get too excited. We’re not talking Justin Timberlake covering ”Justify My Love.” Or Pink doing ”Like A Virgin.” There’s no Rihanna being a ”Material Girl,” or Britney Spears sassing to ”Human Nature.” Can’t you just hear the Brit tearing into that one?
No, Through The Wilderness features a bunch of artists and bands you’ve likely never heard of, recording in a genre you’ve never heard of either, dubbed ”freak-folk.” One of this eccentric genre’s most famous, wonky purveyors is Devendra Banhardt, and he’s on tap to cover ”Material Girl” in conjunction with the band Mountain Party. Other folks who will get a little freaky with Madonna classics include Ariel Pink, The Chapin Sisters, as well as acts named VietNam, the Bubonic Plague and Giant Drag. Interesting. The new freak-folk label Manimal Vinyl will release the collection November 27.
As for new Madonna, don’t worry. She may have consented to allowing the freak folks to play with her, but she’s strictly working with pop heavyweights. Though Confessions on a Dance Floor‘s producer extraordinaire Stuart Price is supposedly still on tap, all indications are that the new set will be more hip-hop leaning than dance/electronica. In fact, Tim ”Timbaland” Mosley was quoted in the British press as saying the album is ”kinda like ‘Holiday’ with an R&B groove.” Beyond the Timbs (Timbaland and Justin Timberlake), Madonna has spent time in the studio with Pharrell Williams, Akon, Swizz Beatz and pretty much every other leading hip-hop producer. Clearly Madonna is in search of major American hits, the likes of which she hasn’t really seen for a decade now. Despite a few leaked tracks and rampant rumors, there’s no official word on a release date for the album or a first single, though she is said to be wrapping up production….
CHEERS TO MORE WINEHOUSE… Amy Winehouse has been in the news the past few months, though less for her noteworthy music than for her indulgent approach to life. Which is, of course, reflected in her music. Does anyone really expect someone who sings about the wonders of alcohol and the killjoy of rehab to be restrained and responsible? In any case, Winehouse lost this year’s Mercury Prize, one of the most respected music awards in the UK. A panel of judges decides each year’s winner; past recipients have included Artic Monkeys, PJ Harvey and M People. Winehouse lost out to Franz Ferdinand in 2004 with her debut Frank. This year, her album Back to Black lost out to the debut from nu-rave kingpins The Klaxons, even though she was heavily favored to win. No doubt her poor showmanship through frequently canceled concerts and general unreliability contributed to the loss. Adding insult to injury, the Klaxons weren’t exactly humble in accepting victory. When asked how it felt to beat Winehouse, one group member was quoted by the press: ”Her record is a retro record, ours is the most forward-thinking record of the year. We are moving forward.” But if you don’t care for the Klaxons’ new forward direction? Well, you can always look back to Winehouse: Her debut Frank is expected to finally see a stateside release in November….
WINEHOUSE CONNECTION TO A ‘DREAMGIRL’… Winehouse’s debut was helmed by sometime hip-hop producer Salaam Remi, who also worked on Back to Black, including current single ”Tears Dry On Their Own.” Right now, Billboard reports Remi is busy ”fine-tuning” songs he created for Jennifer Hudson‘s debut. Sounds exciting, huh? Further, the Oscar-winning Dreamgirl has said that she’s staying away from hip-hop on the album. So it’s probably not too much to expect a similar sound to Winehouse. Now the bad news: The album has been pushed back from a November release until early next year….
BJORK BUTCHES IT UP… Bjork is still touring in support of Volta, the album on which she collaborated with Timbaland. But Billboard reports she’s planning to release a second album this year, one on which she’s working with a brass band to alter her previously recorded material, with an aim to making it more butch. For this ”Live Session Album,” Bjork is working with two keyboardists and a drummer along with a 10-piece, all-female brass section from Iceland that has been supporting her on tour. ”A lot of the songs that were previously done with strings turned out even better with brass,” she told Billboard. The magazine had few details to report about the album, from its actual release date to whether it would include songs only from Volta or if it would go deeper into her catalog. Just the idea of a brass-enforced ”Big Time Sensuality” is exciting. And it couldn’t help but enhance her recent output, including the eerie Timbaland co-production, ”Earth Intruders.”
”Having two guys on electronics and one drummer means that I can go as macho as it is possible for me,” she continues, adding that the brass helps her out even more, ”with that obviously being quite ‘butch.’ Overall the importance is on dynamism — really, really quiet songs and really, really loud ones.” Say this for Bjork: She may not always — or even often, depending on your perspective — succeed in her efforts, but she never quits experimenting and never seems to run out of ideas….
Bjork: Earth Intruders
HIT ONE MORE TIME… Oops, she did it again. But Britney Spears didn’t just goof again. Though clearly she did that, with her sloppy and stilted performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards. It’s as if her tiny two-piece outfit were too tight, cutting off her inspiration. She could barely follow the beats or the lyrics. And she could barely care less. Grin and bare it — that’s all she did.
She certainly didn’t sell the song. Did you even notice ”Gimme More?” Listen again, because it’s right up Britney Alley: If you liked ”Toxic” and especially if you liked ”I’m A Slave 4 U,” there’s no reason you won’t like this or consider this a hit in your playbook. Yes, in fact, she did it again. (Fun fact: Did you know ”Slave” was originally written for Janet Jackson, but the ”Throb”/”Velvet Rope” singer turned it down on account of being too sultry? Hard to believe, but we don’t doubt Wikipedia.) ”Gimme More” was produced by Nate ”Danjahandz” Hills, who is Tim ”Timbaland” Mosley‘s protÃ©gÃ© and most frequent collaborator. And apparently there’s more dance-pop goodness to come on Spears’ next album, due in November and still waiting on a title — as voted on by fans. We think Omg Is Like Lindsay Lohan Like Okay Like is just like, such as, super! Though What if the Joke Is on You would work too. (And yes, those really are in contention, along with more mundane and inappropriate choices like Integrity and Dignity.) ”Toxic”’s lead songwriter Cathy Dennis, the ’90s one-hit-wonder [''Touch Me (All Night Long)''] and Grammy-winning Kylie Minogue contributor, is reportedly back on board. (Fun fact No. 2: The British Dennis not only wrote the theme song to the Pop Idol/American Idol franchise, she’s also the one who chants, ”Wah-oh-uh-oh-uh-waah.”) And frequent Beyonce-producer Sean Garrett hyped Billboard on another track to appear on the album: ”I’ve got this one record I’ve been holding for 10 months that everyone has tried to buy, but I stayed with Britney on it. I guarantee it will shake up the world. It’s uptempo, out of control … it’s wow-zers.” Yeah, but if the ultimate seller turns you off — or at least, fails to turn you on — will you still buy it? The odds are diminishing fast for Britney….
OUT OF SYNC… JC Chasez is another ’90s teen-pop sensation trying to keep a career alive a decade later. But Chasez, as a solo star, hasn’t had even half of Britney’s fame, not to mention former ‘N Sync bandmate Justin Timberlake. So it’s not altogether surprising that his long-time label home Jive Records has cut him loose, even if it came a couple years later than expected — and a year after Chasez wrapped up work on an album. Oops. Jive was supposed to release earlier this year Chasez’s follow-up to his 2004 debut Schizophrenic. Billboard reports the new set, tentatively titled Kate, will now appear ”on a new label to be announced” — which sounds like a polite way of saying never. Or, at least, a long time from now. It all depends on how lucky Chasez is to find a new label suitor. Though truth be told, Chasez should be pretty lucky. After all, his pal Timberlake did just start up his own label imprint, Tenman Records. And also, there’s the fact the album features collaborations with both Tims — Timberlake and Timbaland — as well as other pop/rock heavy-hitters Dallas Austin and Billy Steinberg. So never say never….
IDOL BEATS… Remember the beat-boxing singer Blake Lewis, the improbable runner-up from this year’s sixth American Idol? Well, his debut album, expected before the year’s out, seems to be shaping up as something worthy of your time. ”It’s your favorite ’80s mix tape,” Lewis told Billboard. ”Very inspired by Michael Jackson, Prince, Erasure, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, the Cure.” Sounds good so far, but then he qualified himself a bit. ”It’s all over the map, really — very influenced by ’80s hip hop, old school breaks, whatever.” Well, whatever won’t cut it — and the working title, Audio Daydream (ADD), isn’t exactly promising either. And on top of that, too much beat-boxing, or even much at all, will keep us away. But so far, we’re curious to see what he dreams up. Meanwhile, this year’s American Idol Jordin Sparks will release her debut in November, and it’s expected to be an uptempo, straightforward pop affair the likes of which we haven’t really heard from an Idol before. So we’re curious about that, too….
MOBY’S NEW HOUSE… As far as is known, Moby hasn’t teamed up with any company to create his forthcoming album the way he did with his last set, Hotel, produced in partnership with W Hotels. In fact, this time Moby seems genuinely inspired by music, and of a sort he hasn’t really created before: not techno, or just general dance-pop, but house, specifically diva-oriented early-house. Grace Jones and Donna Summer are touchstones, he told Billboard, though he’s working with unknown and up-and-coming singers rather than celebrity guests. If nothing else, LOGO seems like a marketing partner for the album, which is expected in early February….
DANCE DEVIANTS — AND ‘DOOBIE’… Every so often a club track comes along with an attitude that makes you take notice. These are generally feisty and playful songs expressing deviant sentiments that clubgoers share, or at least relate to in the abstract — generally about sex, drugs or the wonders of dance music. Tracks by Tom ”Superchumbo” Stephan and Cazwell may come to mind, though Avenue D‘s ”Do I Look Like A Slut?” is still tops in our book. But wait till you hear newcomer Eva, a New York-based Swedish singer. Eva has a way with words and timing that belies her acting and burlesque/cabaret experience. With her lightly, appealingly accented English, she’s an incendiary storyteller on ”13th Street, New York City,” a track produced by Eddie Cumana and Stuart Bridges. According to the label, it was Cumana who inspired Eva’s spoken-word lyrics.
”I was on 13th Street, in the middle of the night,” Eva says on the track, ”and up to me comes this guy and asks me, ‘Do you want a puff?”’ He didn’t mean a puff pastry of course, but Eva couldn’t refuse anyway. They proceeded to puff the night away, but that’s only the half of it. ”We went up to my roof and we were screwing all night long!” ”Oh yes!”
Ah, the beauty of an independent label with counterculture tendencies. Cumana & Bridges featuring Eva’s ribald ”doobie” track is just the latest from Kult Records. The label, headed by Cumana, has been a steady provider of underground club tracks since its formation more than a decade ago, though until now it’s drawn little attention to itself. More smoke than fire, let’s say. But it has plans to churn out more incendiary — or at least infectious — tracks this fall from the likes of Alan T and Lula and others you have been exposed to previously, most likely on a Star 69 release. There’s a lot of overlap between those two labels especially, though Kult is a bit angrier and edgier and less mainstream than Peter Rauhofer‘s Star 69. Kult is more the domain of bitter, bitchy drag queens and those they inspire to be fierce and demanding — not simply singing and shouting divas….
KULT’S DIVAS AND DRAGS… So how did Sheila Brody get on the Kult list? Well, actually, Kult has released many thunderous club diva ditties you’d at least recognize by sound [''Love Dominates (No Man Can Tame Me),'' ''Don't Want Another Man,'' ''Shake Yourself Loose''], from the likes of Tina Ann and Cissy ”Whitney’s Mama” Houston — and credited to DYNAMIX, an alias for Cumana. No doubt you’ve seen or heard a drag queen lip-synch along to a Kult track or two; they’re custom-made for drag queens. Brody, who usually records as Amuka, got her appreciative start several years ago with the Star 69 release ”Appreciate Me” and then its follow-up ”U Ain’t That Good,” but she’s now part of the Kult cult. Her follow-up to last year’s chart-topper ”I Want More (Cling on to Me)” is ”EQ (I Am An Effect For You).” It’s as catchy as all her previous hits. Here’s hoping her effects continue to hit….