MIKA – THE ORIGIN OF LOVE
The Origin of Love is Mika’s coming out album. Sure, we homos knew all along that he likes dick but he only officially stepped out of the closet sometime between 2009’s The Boy Who Knew Too Much and this, his third album. Somewhere in between, the flamboyant Brit seems to have had an epiphany, grown up and made an album that’s somehow both more gay and less flamboyant at the same time. Allow me to explain. On the one hand, The Origin of Love is less flouncy, less OTT and less gimmicky. Deliberately so, as Mika says he set out to make a more serious, adult album. Yet, where before he skirted around his gayness in the lyrics, this time round he’s unashamedly Team Homo. There are even references to the words ‘gay’ and ‘faggot’ Ermagherd!
Thematically the songs are about love. Duh! The title tells you that much. What it doesn’t give away is how layered Mika’s experience of it has been. From the catchy Popular Song, which is a reminiscence about being in the ‘in crowd’ at school, to being a love cynic in Lola and Overrated, Mika’s signature falsetto delivers a solid pop/rock effort. We also loved the campest song on the album Love You When I’m Drunk, the deeper and mellower Underwater, Make You Happy, Celebrate and the funtastic Emily.It’s a slightly different sound for Mika so don’t let that put you off. It’s still camp and fun, but on a deeper level this time. Who knew more serious could be so fabulous!
USELESS FACT: You won’t hear the album’s first single Elle Me Dit. Not unless you live in France. The song was released only in France but it does appear in a redone English version with a petit bit of French in the form of Emily.
RATING: 9 out of 10
NO DOUBT – PUSH AND SHOVE
Wish I could tell you that Gwen Stefani’s long-awaited return to the music limelight puts the ‘cum’ into ‘comeback’ (you know – spunky!). But sadly, I come bearing news of a fairly flaccid offering. Push and Shove is the sixth album from No Doubt, the band that made Gwen a household name, and their first proper album in eight years. So the pressure was on to produce a hot, new sound for the four-piece band. But, overall the album doesn’t rise to the occasion and sounds a lot of the time like a second-rate Katy Perry rip-off. Genre-wise No Doubt keep it safe with the punk-tinged rock sound that fans know and love, with a few electro beats here and there on the 11 tracks.
Push And Shove is a mixed bag of offerings with the good songs being especially great and with a few, throwaway, lower-tempo songs that could’ve been left off in favour of the upbeat stuff. You see, No Doubt excel when they’re being both quirky and uptempo about it. Hence the album’s catchy first single Settle Down. Fans will also dig Looking Hot (the second single), the rocking Undercover, One More Summer and extremely catchy titled track Push And Shove. A welcome comeback but by no means their best work.
USELESS FACT: During No Doubt’s early days, Gwen and the band’s bass guitarist Tony Kanal used to date. Their break-up after seven years inspired her to write the band’s massive 1996 hit song Don’t Speak.
RATING: 6 out of 10
CARLY RAE JEPSEN – KISS
Call her awesome! Canadian newbie Carly Rae Jepsen has ingrained herself in popular culture with one of 2012’s breakout tunes Call Me Maybe. The catchy tune, plus the addition of uber-hunky model Holden Nowell in the fag-friendly music vid, has made her something of a gay icon. And we’re happy to have her! Kiss is actually Carly’s second album but her first to find mainstream play. It sticks to comfortable, commercial pop and dance genres, which sure, can be a little bubblegummy at times, but that’s also okay – Carly’s not trying for the heart-wrenching ache of Adele or the power-pop of Katie Perry. Her style is unashamedly a little cheesy (lots of songs about love lost and found) with plenty of pop ballads.
There are 13 tracks on the international release and plenty to listen to. From the shamelessly fun Good Time with Owl City to the third single This Kiss as well as folk-ish duet Beautiful with Justin Bieber, plus Your Heart Is a Muscle, I Know You Have a Girlfriend and Tiny Little Bows. It’s sweet and very girl-next door. Kiss won’t change your world but it will get your feet tapping.
USELESS FACT: Call Me Maybe has spawned dozens of YouTube tribute/parodies that have gone viral, including from big names like Bieber, Ashley Tisdale and Katy Perry. There’s even a Call Me Gangnam mash-up and a Star Wars parody which matches words from the six Star Wars movies to the song’s lyrics. Bizarre!
RATING: 7 out of 10
ROCCO DE VILLIERS – BEAUTIFUL PIANO
The Afrikaans music industry is pretty incestuous at time. Some might even say inbred. Case in point: flamboyant pianist Rocco de Villiers latest DVD, Beautiful Piano. For starters the 21-track live show was produced by skirtchaser Steve Hofmeyr’s production company (oh the irony!). And then there’s the fact that camp-as-Christmas Rocco emulates the iconic NataniÃ«l in his show, which was recorded live at Pieter Torien’s Montecasino theatre. No surprises though, as the two were once upon a time a two-piece act. But while NataniÃ«l is a genius at live performances, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats with his mix of engaging storytelling and cabaret, Rocco is a poor substitute. I’d go so far as to call him “NataniÃ«l lite”.
Beautiful Piano sticks to a simple formula – Rocco tickles the ivories between tales of his life. And while he’s good on the piano, his comic timing is lacking, his jokes are flatter than E major (a little piano joke: E flat major, geddit?) and his stories waffle on for far too long, each one tending to start with something that happened to him while at gym. Ok, you gym a lot. We get it Rocco! If you really want to watch this, fast forward through the talking to the songs, which include Edelweiss, Chariots of Fire, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, Super Trouper and You Raise Me Up.
USELESS FACT: The dancers (who’re there, presumably, to distract from Rocco’s gym stories,) were choreographed by Ursula Greer, the dancer/choreographer wife of TV presenter Jason Greer.
RATING: 4 out of 10
DJ FRESH – NEXTLEVELISM
DJ Fresh (not the 5FM dude!) is the UK’s answer to David Guetta. Just a lot less A-List. So you know how Guetta does the wikey-wikey part, mixing all the music and leaving the vocals up to big-name music stars like The Black Eyed Peas, Shakira, Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida, Usher and Akon? Well, Fresh kinda does the same thing except for two major differences. Firstly, while Guetta tends to go with a more commercial dance approach with a sound that incorporates a lot more electro, pop and urban beats Fresh sticks to what he knows best: dubstep and drum and bass. The other main difference is that Fresh isn’t roping in the big guns – yet! His collaborates include Dizzee Rascal, Rizzle Kicks, Rihanna 2.0 Rita Ora and has-been actress-turned-rocker Juliette Lewis.
Play the 12 tracks loud. They deserve nothing less. Especially the radio-friendly Louder with Sian Evans (who?) and Hot Right Now with Rita Ora on vocals. Then there’s the latest single The Feeling which has Ravaughn (er, who?) doing the singing, The Power with Dizzee Rascal, Skyhighatrist with Rizzle Kicks and See You Again which also involves Adam F and Michael Warren (again, who?). Sadly, once you’ve played the first four songs everything just starts sounding the same. Fresh is, well, a bit stale really.
USELESS FACT: DJ Fresh’s real name is Daniel Stein. Which probably makes him Jewish. Baruch hashem…
RATING: 6 out of 10
VARIOUS ARTISTS – GOODLUCK: THE LUCKY PACKET MIX TAPE
Before you start getting over-excited, this is not (I repeat NOT) a new Goodluck album. *sad face*. It does however have their quirky, electro-swing stamp all over it. The Lucky Packet Mix Tape is a love letter to fans while the Cape Town-based band, most famous for hits like Hop On Hop Off, Stars In My Eyes and London Sixteen66, get ready to record their next album. It’s basically, as the inside sleeve will tell ya, a collection of songs that are inspiring them at the moment as well as hot tracks coming out of Europe, where they recently spent some time.
The Lucky Packet also gives us an insight into what will probably be a change/evolution of sound for the band – a little less electro-swing (ie jazz dance, if there is such a thing) to a bit more of a mainstream sound with plenty of thumping beats and doef doef, even some dubstep. We loved the Loose Cannons Remix of the Ray Charles classic Hit the Road Jack, the Pascal & Pearce Remix of Goodluck’s own Le Good Life, Discofamily’s Ain’t Got That Swing, Nothing Inside from Sander Van Doorn & Mayaeni and Analog People in a Digital World from Gramaphonedzie and Ben Onono. Let the fun times roll!
USELESS FACT: Goodluck’s Ben Peters is the younger brother of GoldFish’s Dominic Peters. Guess electro runs in the genes, hey lads!
RATING: 7 out of 10